The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is backing the the Secure Data Act, proposed legislation the EFF says would stop government-mandated backdoors. In a press release, the EFF went so far as to say the bill “gets encryption right.” That’s high praise for a subject as fraught with peril, complexity, and potential for misunderstanding as encryption.
You can read the bill in its entirety, but the short version is this passage:
No agency may mandate or request that a manufacturer, developer, or seller of covered products design or alter the security functions in its product or service to allow the surveillance of any user of such product or service, or to allow the physical search of such product, by any agency.
Encryption Protects Us from the Bad Guys
In that the experts universally understand all backdoors fundamentally weaken data protections, that kind of prohibition would go far in preventing well-intentioned, but ill-informed legislators, regulators, law enforcement, and potentially even courts from pursuing a legally-required backdoor into encrypted communications.
At least in the U.S.
On the global stage, even fearful democracies beset by terrorism run quickly to the mistaken belief that the bad guys can be stopped by sanctioning encrypted services or blocking them entirely. Authoritarian regimes such as Russia, China, and a smorgasbord of tinpot dictators around the world are already cracking down on encryption to better surveil their own citizenry.
The Secure Data Act, as written, could draw a nice line in the sand in the States and serve as yard sticks for other countries. I doubt its ability to pass, but we can all cross our fingers.