Why the U.S. Doesn’t Deserve a Back Door to Your Data

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Media Outlet: Slate

The U.S. intelligence apparatus still wants a key to your private data. Specifically, it wants “backdoor,” or “exceptional,” access to encrypted data when a court order is obtained for it. Last week, the nation’s intelligence heads—FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Vincent Stewart—went before the House Intelligence Committee to lay out the threats and make their asks. After raising the specter of crippling large-scale cyberattacks, Clapper said the more pressing concern was persistent, ongoing small attacks, or as Foreign Policy put it, “Get Ready for Everything to Be Hacked All the Time.” To fight these attacks, Clapper wants streamlined access to the private accounts of Americans—an idea that is unnecessary at best and counterproductive at worst. And the intelligence leaders’ bad ideas didn’t end there.

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David B. Auerbach was a New America fellow, writing a book on the impact of algorithmic and computational methods on public policy and social life. He writes the weekly Bitwise column on technology for Slate.