Obama administration toys with full encryption support

The Obama Administration is weighing whether to come out in full support of unfettered encryption, something that would be a huge blow to the Feds, who have been pushing for compulsory backdoors in all new tech.

But there’s something in the President’s proposals that aren’t quite right.

A leaked memo [PDF] from the National Security Council (NSC), seen and published by The Washington Post, outlines three options over what to do regarding the issue.

The first would make it plain that the President opposes both a new law and other actions to introduce backdoors, and would see him speak in favour of the benefits of encryption.

The second option is to defer any decisions and push the issue into open consultation with the aim of coming back to the issue. And the third is to punt the issue into the long grass.

There is no option to push encryption, or to seek legislation for a compulsory backdoor.

Each option is provided with a rundown of the pros and cons of each approach and how it would likely be received by key stakeholder groups such as the tech industry, law enforcement, and civil society.

It’s an old public policy trick to provide three options and then make two so unpalatable that the third – the right one – is chosen. In this case, only the “do nothing” option is off the table, amid the suggestion that it would make the US look indecisive, would annoy everyone, and would only be putting the issue off for a few months.

The second option is pitched as presenting a compromise that would allow the Administration to negotiate with other governments and the tech industry.

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