A new report from Politico claims the Trump administration is considering the banning of end-to-end encryption, such as that used by Apple’s Messages and FaceTime services and other messaging services such as WhatsApp.
The report says the topic was the main point of discussion at a National Security Council meeting on Wednesday.
The report cites three sources for the story.
Senior Trump administration officials met on Wednesday to discuss whether to seek legislation prohibiting tech companies from using forms of encryption that law enforcement can’t break — a provocative step that would reopen a long-running feud between federal authorities and Silicon Valley.
The encryption challenge, which the government calls “going dark,” was the focus of a National Security Council meeting Wednesday morning that included the No. 2 officials from several key agencies, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Two options were said to have been discussed at the meeting. The first would be to ask Congress to “effectively outlaw end-to-end encryption, which scrambles data so that only its sender and recipient can read it.” The second option would involve putting out a statement or a general position on encryption that would say they would continue to work on a solution.
No decision on the subject was reached, due to the strongly conflicting views within the government.
The DOJ and the FBI argue that catching criminals and terrorists should be the top priority, even if watered-down encryption creates hacking risks. The Commerce and State Departments disagree, pointing to the economic, security and diplomatic consequences of mandating encryption “backdoors.”
DHS is internally divided. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency knows the importance of encrypting sensitive data, especially in critical infrastructure operations, but ICE and the Secret Service regularly run into encryption roadblocks during their investigations.
The main concern for many is that any backdoor created for such encrypted information to allow access to or monitoring of conversations could be exploited by the bad guys. Apple has long opposed any weakening of end-to-end encryption.