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A Thoughtful Response to Going Dark and the Child Pornography Issue

Susan Landau shares her take on the debate around “exceptional access,” in a piece for Lawfare.

Last month the Department of Justice held a Lawful Access Summit focusing on the role of encryption in child pornography and exploitation. There’s no question that the internet makes it much easier to obtain child pornography than it once was or that end-to-end encryption makes law enforcement investigations in this area significantly harder. But there is debate over whether “exceptional access”—enabling law enforcement with a search warrant to read encrypted messages—is the right tool to handle the problems investigators face.

Rep. Anna Eshoo and Sen. Ron Wyden have written a thoughtful letter to Attorney General William Barr calling on law enforcement to employ currently available digital investigative capabilities. Eshoo and Wyden also observe the importance of end-to-end encryption in securing Americans’ communications—something many of us have addressed over and over again. The recent Carnegie Endowment for International Peace study, Moving the Encryption Policy Conversation Forward, provides ways to advance the encryption discussion. Rather than continuing to dig deeper at the same hole as two decades ago, the Justice Department should move forward to face current realities.

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