Academics and privacy groups ask Obama to reject anti-encryption legislation

President’s response to #SaveCrypto petition is 100 days overdue

Washington D.C. — Today 37 academics, NGOs, and companies sent a letter to President Obama “to respectfully request that the White House specifically oppose legislation to undermine security and reiterate the need for a broad statement of support for encryption from the administration.” The letter reminds the administration that it has been 167 days since a pro-encryption petition at SaveCrypto.org surpassed 100,000 signatures, and there has still been no substantive response from the president. The White House has “aimed” to respond to petitions with 100,000 signatures within 60 days.

The letter was organized after The Hill published a draft of legislation written by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that would undermine the development and use of encryption. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough is expected to brief President Obama about the bill today.

From the letter:

“Last week, the text of a draft bill written by Senators Burr and Feinstein was published… It is difficult to take this draft seriously. It has been broadly written to require that all internet companies, and in fact ‘any person who provides a product or method to facilitate a communication or the processing or storage of data,’ either undermine the security features they offer users or offer lesser security so as to facilitate government access. This definition includes institutions that many, including government agencies and representatives, rely upon to protect our most sensitive data.

“It is beyond dispute that this bill would threaten the safety of billions of internet users, including journalists, activists, and ordinary people exercising their right to free expression, as well as critical infrastructure systems and government databases. However, it would likely to do very little to assist in investigations of crime or terrorism, since those who engage in illegal activities will have access to other means to protect their own devices and communications.”

The letter also reminds President Obama of his commitment to respond to a pro-encryption petition hosted at SaveCrypto.org using the White House’s “We The People” interface. The letter states, “That petition received well over 100,000 signatures, meeting your established threshold to require an official response. Despite a commitment to work to provide this response within 60 days, it has been more than 160 days without an answer from your office.”

“We live in an insecure world where millions of people rely on third parties to keep their most personal information safe from the constant barrage of hacks and attacks. Our critical infrastructure, including our communications networks, simply cannot keep up. We should be doing everything we can to help secure these networks and services. However, the draft legislation we’ve seen from Senators Burr and Feinstein, like legislation we’ve seen popping up in countries around the world, significantly undermines our safety and security. The president must demonstrate leadership and political maturity by making clear that the United States will work to support the strongest encryption available,” said Amie Stepanovich, U.S. Policy Manager at Access Now.