Yesterday, Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein put their names to an article in the Wall Street Journal defending their position on encryption and the Burr-Feinstein bill. Their main argument is as follows:

  • They’re not asking companies to provide law enforcement with access. They’re not even telling companies how they should gain access
  • All they’re doing is asking companies to find a way to keep their data secure while cooperating with law enforcement and criminal investigations

It sounds pretty reasonable on the surface, but what they’re basically saying is:

“We don’t care if it’s impossible to build backdoors in such a way that people’s security is still protected. Find a way, or build the backdoors anyway.”

Burr and Feinstein have stuck their heads in the sand and ignored the reality behind what they’re asking companies to do. They cite their hands-off approach as evidence that what they’re asking for is not unreasonable, but that argument simply doesn’t fly. Just because you give companies flexibility to solve a problem doesn’t mean that a solution suddenly exists.

Their second point – that “American technology companies have done some amazing things… finding a way to achieve both goals simultaneously is not beyond their capabilities” again is almost laughable. It’s pure wishful thinking, but what’s worse is that the consequences should this solution not be found would be a weakening of the security of all consumer digital products. Hackers, who are already ahead in the arms race, would have a field day.

Wishing that something can be done doesn’t make it so. Legislation that impacts the security of millions of people should be based in reality, with a realistic expectation that what it requests of people is possible.