While they may disagree in other areas, one thing that former FBI Director James Comey, current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and current FBI Director Christopher Wray all have in common is their distaste for strong encryption that prevents the government from accessing information. In 2016, Comey and the Justice Department went to court to try to force Apple to help the government decrypt messages sent by the San Bernardino terrorist attackers. A few months ago, Rosenstein picked up that torch, discussing the need for government access to encrypted information in two separate speeches in October, then repeating his views in the wake of November’s mass shooting at a church in Texas. On January 10, Wray raised the subject in a speech, referring to it as “an urgent public safety issue.” At the same time, as tech companies are quick to point out, the rising tide of information snooping by foreign governments and private actors makes the need for strong encryption greater than ever. The Trump Administration’s strong law-and-order stance, and relative lack of sympathy for tech companies and civil libertarians, mean that 2018 could lead to new developments in this area.
Putting It Into Practice: Keep an eye on the federal government’s actions in this area; they could affect the future of encrypted communications, including the cybersecurity tools your company relies on.