The technology industry is growing faster than any other and having a positive and far-reaching influence on the world. The products and services software developers are creating and the data that powers them are making our lives healthier, safer, and more prosperous. Unfortunately, that same innovation and excitement is too often met with trepidation — or even confusion — in the halls of Congress.
As the voice of developers in Washington, D.C. and an advocate for innovation, we work to ensure the voice of developers and small businesses are heard. But there are times when lawmakers just won't listen. The recent defeat of a proposal by Representative Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) is one of those times. The House of Representatives has ignored our calls for common sense and put the safety and security of developers, their products, and users at risk.
For the past three years, Representatives Massie and Lofgren have put forth legislation that would protect companies from burdensome law enforcement mandates and civilians from undue searches. The bill would have:
- Prohibited the federal government from mandating that companies weaken or break their encryption.
- Required the federal government to obtain a warrant before carrying out some searches on U.S. citizens.
This proposal passed overwhelmingly in 2014 and 2015, so the bill’s defeat this year is especially disappointing.
This proposal had massive implications. Developers know how vital end-to-end encryption is in the digital world, and they also know how damaging even the most well-intentioned “backdoors” in encryption can be. Consumers rightly demand that their sensitive data remain safe and secure, and developers are meeting these demands by employing cutting-edge, robust encryption technologies. Consumers also rightly demand that their electronic privacy is respected and not subjected to warrantless searches.
So with the defeat of this proposal, software developers remain unclear on what’s expected of them, and consumers are left in the dark about what information can be accessed by the government. Without question, this weakening of security and privacy will erode the trust consumers place in the life-changing products developers are creating. Importantly, it also calls into question our status as the global hub for innovation.
In response to the bill’s defeat, the Alliance has written an open letter to the members of Congress, encouraging those who voted “nay” to reconsider. We encourage developers to read the letter and know that we will continue to make your voices heard on this very important issue.
The full letter can be found here.
U.S. Public Policy Intern