Dear Mr. President – No Government Mandated Backdoors!

Golden Frog is honored to be among the nearly 150 signatories of a letter delivered to President Obama this morning condemning the idea of mandatory backdoors into encrypted products and services.

The fight to protect encryption is essential to the future of the Internet. Encryption is how privacy-conscious people protect their Internet communications and private information from hackers as well as government and corporate intrusion. American businesses encrypt confidential and proprietary information such as trade secrets and customer data.

Encryption is not a barrier to national security. Golden Frog and others in the tech community that care about online privacy are not anti-law enforcement. We are not interested in jeopardizing national security. We believe in protecting the customers who rely on us to secure their Internet connection, which in turn ensures that the data they send and receive is encrypted and safe from prying eyes. That data belongs to them; it’s their property. It doesn’t belong to us, an Internet access provider, or the government.

Building hardened encryption services is challenging enough without the FBI or NSA requesting the technology community intentionally weakened their infrastructure via backdoors. The government doesn’t need a backdoor or golden key to decrypt everything. If you want the data, don’t ask for a backdoor. Instead, get a warrant and come through the front door.

We hope that President Obama and others in the federal government begin to realize encryption and other core security libraries are “critical infrastructure” that require the private sector and government to invest and work together. Encryption is everyone’s tool to protect themselves.

We request that the White House focus on developing policies that will promote, rather than undermine, the wide adoption of strong encryption technology. Such policies will in turn help to promote and protect cybersecurity, economic growth, and human rights, both here and abroad.

The full letter is available here. It was spearheaded by Kevin Bankston of Open Technology Institute, and is also included below.

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

We the undersigned represent a wide variety of civil society organizations dedicated to protecting civil liberties, human rights, and innovation online, as well as technology companies, trade associations, and security and policy experts. We are writing today to respond to recent statements by some Administration officials regarding the deployment of strong encryption technology in the devices and services offered by the U.S. technology industry. Those officials have suggested that American companies should refrain from providing any products that are secured by encryption, unless those companies also weaken their security in order to maintain the capability to decrypt their customers’ data at the government’s request. Some officials have gone so far as to suggest that Congress should act to ban such products or mandate such capabilities.

We urge you to reject any proposal that U.S. companies deliberately weaken the security of their products. We request that the White House instead focus on developing policies that will promote rather than undermine the wide adoption of strong encryption technology. Such policies will in turn help to promote and protect cybersecurity, economic growth, and human rights, both here and abroad.

Strong encryption is the cornerstone of the modern information economy’s security. Encryption protects billions of people every day against countless threats—be they street criminals trying to steal our phones and laptops, computer criminals trying to defraud us, corporate spies trying to obtain our companies’ most valuable trade secrets, repressive governments trying to stifle dissent, or foreign intelligence agencies trying to compromise our and our allies’ most sensitive national security secrets.

Encryption thereby protects us from innumerable criminal and national security threats. This protection would be undermined by the mandatory insertion of any new vulnerabilities into encrypted devices and services. Whether you call them “front doors” or “back doors”, introducing intentional vulnerabilities into secure products for the government’s use will make those products less secure against other attackers. Every computer security expert that has spoken publicly on this issue agrees on this point, including the government’s own experts.

In addition to undermining cybersecurity, any kind of vulnerability mandate would also seriously undermine our economic security. U.S. companies are already struggling to maintain international trust in the wake of revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. Introducing mandatory vulnerabilities into American products would further push many customers—be they domestic or international, individual or institutional—to turn away from those compromised products and services. Instead, they—and many of the bad actors whose behavior the government is hoping to impact—will simply rely on encrypted offerings from foreign providers, or avail themselves of the wide range of free and open source encryption products that are easily available online.

More than undermining every American’s cybersecurity and the nation’s economic security, introducing new vulnerabilities to weaken encrypted products in the U.S. would also undermine human rights and information security around the globe. If American companies maintain the ability to unlock their customers’ data and devices on request, governments other than the United States will demand the same access, and will also be emboldened to demand the same capability from their native companies. The U.S. government, having made the same demands, will have little room to object. The result will be an information environment riddled with vulnerabilities that could be exploited by even the most repressive or dangerous regimes. That’s not a future that the American people or the people of the world deserve.

The Administration faces a critical choice: will it adopt policies that foster a global digital ecosystem that is more secure, or less? That choice may well define the future of the Internet in the 21st century. When faced with a similar choice at the end of the last century, during the so-called “Crypto Wars”, U.S. policymakers weighed many of the same concerns and arguments that have been raised in the current debate, and correctly concluded that the serious costs of undermining encryption technology outweighed the purported benefits. So too did the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, who unanimously recommended in their December 2013 report that the US Government should “(1) fully support and not undermine efforts to create encryption standards; (2) not in any way subvert, undermine, weaken, or make vulnerable generally available commercial software; and (3) increase the use of encryption and urge US companies to do so, in order to better protect data in transit, at rest, in the cloud, and in other storage.”

We urge the Administration to follow the Review Group’s recommendation and adopt policies that promote rather than undermine the widespread adoption of strong encryption technologies, and by doing so help lead the way to a more secure, prosperous, and rights-respecting future for America and for the world.

Thank you,

Civil Society Organizations

  • Access
  • Advocacy for Principled Action in Government
  • American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • American Library Association
  • Benetech
  • Bill of Rights Defense Committee
  • Center for Democracy & Technology
  • Committee to Protect Journalists
  • The Constitution Project
  • Constitutional Alliance
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations
  • Demand Progress
  • Defending Dissent Foundation
  • DownsizeDC.org, Inc.
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
  • Engine
  • Fight for the Future
  • Free Press
  • Free Software Foundation
  • Freedom of the Press Foundation
  • GNOME Foundation
  • The Media Consortium
  • New America’s Open Technology Institute
  • Niskanen Center
  • Open Source Initiative
  • Project Censored/Media Freedom Foundation
  • R Street
  • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
  • TechFreedom
  • The Tor Project
  • U.S. Public Policy Council of Association for Computing Machinery
  • World Privacy Forum
  • X-Lab

Companies & Trade Associations

  • ACT | The App Association
  • Adobe
  • Apple Inc.
  • The Application Developers Alliance
  • Automattic
  • Blockstream
  • Cisco Systems
  • Coinbase
  • Cloud Linux Inc.
  • CloudFlare
  • Computer & Communications Industry Association
  • Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)
  • Context Relevant
  • The Copia Institute
  • CREDO Mobile
  • Data Foundry
  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Facebook
  • Gandi.net
  • Golden Frog
  • Google
  • HackerOne
  • Hackers/Founders
  • Hewlett-Packard Company
  • Internet Archive
  • The Internet Association
  • Internet Infrastructure Coalition (i2Coalition)
  • Level 3 Communications
  • LinkedIn
  • Microsoft
  • Misk.com
  • Mozilla
  • Open Spectrum Inc.
  • Rackspace
  • Rapid7
  • Reform Government Surveillance
  • Sonic
  • ServInt
  • Silent Circle
  • Slack Technologies, Inc.
  • Symantec
  • Tech Assets Inc.
  • TechNet
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter
  • Wikimedia Foundation
  • Yahoo

Security and Policy Experts*

  • Hal Abelson, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Ben Adida, VP Engineering, Clever Inc.
  • Jacob Appelbaum, The Tor Project
  • Adam Back, PhD, Inventor, HashCash, Co-Founder & President, Blockstream
  • Alvaro Bedoya, Executive Director, Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law
  • Brian Behlendorf, Open Source software pioneer
  • Steven M. Bellovin, Percy K. and Vida L.W. Hudson Professor of Computer Science, Columbia University
  • Matt Bishop, Professor of Computer Science, University of California at Davis
  • Matthew Blaze, Director, Distributed Systems Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania
  • Dan Boneh, Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford University
  • Eric Burger, Research Professor of Computer Science and Director, Security and Software Engineering Research Center (Georgetown), Georgetown University
  • Jon Callas, CTO, Silent Circle
  • L. Jean Camp, Professor of Informatics, Indiana University
  • Richard A. Clarke, Chairman, Good Harbor Security Risk Management
  • Gabriella Coleman, Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy, McGill University
  • Whitfield Diffie, Dr. sc. techn., Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University
  • David Evans, Professor of Computer Science, University of Virginia
  • David J. Farber, Alfred Filter Moore Professor Emeritus of Telecommunications, University of Pennsylvania
  • Dan Farmer, Security Consultant and Researcher, Vicious Fishes Consulting
  • Rik Farrow, Internet Security
  • Joan Feigenbaum, Department Chair and Grace Murray Hopper Professor of Computer Science Yale University
  • Richard Forno, Jr. Affiliate Scholar, Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society
  • Alex Fowler, Co-Founder & SVP, Blockstream
  • Jim Fruchterman, Founder and CEO, Benetech
  • Daniel Kahn Gillmor, ACLU Staff Technologist
  • Robert Graham, creator of BlackICE, sidejacking, and masscan
  • Jennifer Stisa Granick, Director of Civil Liberties, Stanford Center for Internet and Society
  • Matthew D. Green, Assistant Research Professor, Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute
  • Robert Hansen, Vice President of Labs at WhiteHat Security
  • Lance Hoffman, Director, George Washington University, Cyber Security Policy and Research Institute
  • Marcia Hofmann, Law Office of Marcia Hofmann
  • Nadim Kobeissi, PhD Researcher, INRIA
  • Joseph Lorenzo Hall, Chief Technologist, Center for Democracy & Technology
  • Nadia Heninger, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer and Information Science, University of Pennsylvania
  • David S. Isenberg, Producer, Freedom 2 Connect
  • Douglas W. Jones, Department of Computer Science, University of Iowa
  • Susan Landau, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Gordon Fyodor Lyon, Founder, Nmap Security Scanner Project
  • Aaron Massey, Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Jonathan Mayer, Graduate Fellow, Stanford University
  • Jeff Moss, Founder, DEF CON and Black Hat security conferences
  • Peter G. Neumann, Senior Principal Scientist, SRI International Computer Science Lab, Moderator of the ACM Risks Forum
  • Ken Pfeil, former CISO at Pioneer Investments
  • Ronald L. Rivest, Vannevar Bush Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Paul Rosenzweig, Professorial Lecturer in Law, George Washington University School of Law
  • Jeffrey I. Schiller, Area Director for Security, Internet Engineering Task Force (1994-2003), Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Bruce Schneier, Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard Law School
  • Micah Sherr, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Georgetown University
  • Adam Shostack, author, “Threat Modeling: Designing for Security”
  • Eugene H. Spafford, CERIAS Executive Director, Purdue University
  • Alex Stamos, CISO, Yahoo
  • Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law, The University of Chicago
  • Peter Swire, Huang Professor of Law and Ethics, Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • C. Thomas (Space Rogue), Security Strategist, Tenable Network Security
  • Dan S. Wallach, Professor, Department of Computer Science and Rice Scholar, Baker Institute of Public Policy
  • Nicholas Weaver, Researcher, International Computer Science Institute
  • Chris Wysopal, Co-Founder and CTO, Veracode, Inc.
  • Philip Zimmermann, Chief Scientist and Co-Founder, Silent Circle

*Affiliations provided only for identification purposes.