Mandated access to decrypt communications would cripple privacy

Some of the world’s best known cryptographers – veterans of the crypto wars of the 1990s – say government access to encryption keys is still a bad idea, but is an issue that will never go away because it’s something intelligence agencies crave.

Speaking at RSA 2015’s Cryptographer’s panel, Whitfield Diffie, who pioneered public-key encryption, says key escrow schemes where government could gain access to encrypted data works mainly to the benefit of government. “They want you to be secure but not against them,” he says.

Ron Rivest, an MIT professor and the R in RSA encryption, says key escrow has problems in that it opens many parties to messages that are encrypted for passage across public networks, not just the U.S. government. Other governments would take advantage of it, too, destroying any real hope of privacy. “This is going to be a house of many doors and many parties and it’s just not going to work,” Rivest says.