Cybersecurity experts are criticizing the Justice Department’s new focus on child exploitation as a reason to oppose strong encryption as misleading. They worry it could lead the U.S. to compromise security for all consumers, the Washington Post reports. DOJ got nowhere in previous rounds in the encryption fight by arguing that warrant-proof encryption would allow terrorists to plan operations and recruit members outside law enforcement’s view. Experts say Attorney General William Barr’s shift to focus on how encryption could prevent police from tracking child sex predators is a clear effort to change the public narrative and use people’s revulsion at child abuse to build support for weakening their own security and privacy.
“This is a very calculated plan and it seems really clear this is the wedge issue they believe will ultimately get them closer to where they want to be than terrorism did because it’s: Are you with the children or are you against the children, and no one wants to be against the children,” says Joe Hall of the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT). While the spread of encryption has made it harder for police to track child predators online, allowing the government a way to access everyone’s communications would cause far more damage, the experts argue. “Encryption backdoors create insecurity for everyone in the world because those backdoors can be exploited by abusive stalkers, identity thieves, criminals and human rights abusing governments,” said Jennifer Granick of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU and CDT were among the more than 50 technology and civil liberties groups that are organizing a counterpush: They wrote to Facebook encouraging the company to proceed with its plans to expand encryption even after attacks from the Justice Department.