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It’s Time to Move the Encryption Discussion Forward

Encryption Principles Art
The encryption discussion in Washington has been locked in a polarized stalemate for months — with loud voices on distant ends deeply dug in.

Encryption is a complex issue that affects a range of global stakeholders, from governments to businesses to individuals. The ideal solution needs to consider all legitimate sides of the argument and can only be achieved through open dialogue. It is time for this stalemate to end.

To move the conversation forward, BSA | The Software Alliance has developed a set of Encryption Principles, to be used by governments around the world to evaluate proposals on encryption in a balanced way. These principles frame a comprehensive approach to address the important needs of global cybersecurity, public safety, and personal privacy and prosperity.

Much of the recent coverage on encryption has centered on preventing terrorist attacks. The challenges confronting law enforcement as they work to keep us safe should not be underestimated, but we cannot examine this issue from a single point of view. There are consequences to undermining encryption. Although weakening encryption may help law enforcement investigate specific crimes in the short term, we shouldn’t lose sight of the significant long-term harm that could come from compromising these defenses.

Our national, state, and local governments rely on encryption to secure sensitive information. Data service providers also use encryption technology to protect private personal and business data, such as addresses and financial profiles. Banking, health, electricity, water, and other critical infrastructure providers depend on encryption to guard their operations. Encryption plays an integral part in guaranteeing the safety of online data that affects our day-to-day lives.

With the next Administration and Congress coming to Washington in January, industry and policymakers have an opportunity for a renewed focus on this issue. Let’s stop viewing the encryption debate as a competition with winners and losers. Only by engaging in collaborative discussions will we discover a solution that doesn’t undermine the security of everyone. BSA is prepared to evaluate any proposed legislation, regulation, or policy on encryption to determine if it meets these needs. We look forward to continuing the conversation.

To learn more about the BSA Encryption Principles, visit www.bsa.org/encryptionprinciples.

Victoria Espinel

Author:

Victoria Espinel is a respected authority on the intersection of technology innovation, global markets and public policy. She leads strategic efforts that help shape the technology landscape in 60 countries through work in BSA’s 10 global offices.

Espinel also serves as the President of Software.org: the BSA Foundation. Software.org is an independent and nonpartisan international research organization created to help policymakers and the broader public better understand the impact that software has on our lives, our economy, and our society.

Espinel served for a decade in the White House, for both Republican and Democratic Administrations as President Obama’s advisor on intellectual property and, before that, as the first ever chief US trade negotiator for intellectual property and innovation at USTR. She was also a professor of international trade and intellectual property at the George Mason School of Law.

Espinel is a founding and ongoing co-sponsor of Girls Who Code’s Washington, DC, summer immersion program, which empowers young women to pursue careers in STEM fields. She speaks before audiences around the world to build visibility for the amazing things people can do with software, and encourages businesses, governments, and the public to support a policy environment that will enable even more software breakthroughs.

Espinel chairs the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on the Digital Economy and Society. She was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN), the principal advisory group for the US government on international trade. She holds an LLM from the London School of Economics, a JD from Georgetown University Law School, and a BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriaespinel.

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