The Effect of Encryption on Lawful Access to Communications and Data
The Technology Policy Program conducted a study on the growth of encryption technology and the impact it is having on security, public safety, and critical business interests. We gathered data on types of unrecoverable encryption, the scope of their use, and the impact that has had on law enforcement. Based on this data, we sought to identify trends for domestic and international policy that balance the need for strong cybersecurity with the need for effective law enforcement.
Throughout the course of the project, CSIS solicited input from senior leaders and experts from government, academia, industry, and civil society to scope the extent of the challenge, and identify common ground for possible solutions. Independent research and data collected by CSIS was supplemented by a series of focused roundtable discussions on be core issues of the larger “going dark” debate:
- Encryption and Government Access
- Access to Digital Evidence: Initial Findings and Data
- International Cooperation on Electronic Evidence Gathering
In February 2017, we released our report on the impact of encryption on law enforcement access to data. Our research found that the risk to public safety created by encryption has not reached a level that justifies restrictions or design mandates. The encryption issue law enforcement faces, while frustrating, is currently manageable. Alternatives to restriction include international cooperation, expanded use of data analytics, improved law enforcement access capabilities, and regional decryption labs. Such solutions are imperfect, but they face fewer political obstacles than restriction. Law enforcement agencies fear that this situation could change rapidly for the worse, but interim solutions that improve law enforcement’s technical capabilities can provide time to identify sustainable national and international policies on encryption.
Follow-On Project: Measuring Law Enforcement’s Capacity to Leverage Digital Evidence
As a follow-on to our project on encryption, the Technology Policy Program conducted a study of law enforcement’s current capacity to collect and handle digital evidence, identified gaps in training and technical capacity, and outlined recommendations to build additional capacity.