Cybersecurity, encryption and data breaches now regularly lead the evening news. Recent government pronouncements have created competing, sometimes contradictory, pressures on companies simultaneously to ensure robust protection for their customers’ data while also considering whether to acquiesce to law enforcement’s demands that they should be able to de-encrypt data on request.

On Tuesday, July 23, Attorney General William P. Barr focused his keynote address at the International Conference on Cybersecurity at Fordham University Law School in Manhattan on cybersecurity concerns. Barr’s speech noted first the importance of encryption techniques in cybersecurity, explaining, “encryption provides enormous benefits to society by enabling secure communications, data storage and online transactions.” However, Barr’s speech primarily focused on a need for companies to provide governmental access to encrypted data and communications. Bemoaning the dangers of “warrant proof” encryption, Barr warned that such encryption “poses a grave threat to public safety by extinguishing the ability of law enforcement to obtain evidence essential to detecting and investigating crimes.” Barr advised technology providers to maintain an appropriate mechanism for lawful access when deploying encryption in their products, services and platforms, although he refrained from supporting or discussing any specific proposals to do so.

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