Dutch gov supports encryption, citing privacy, freedom of expression

Dutch government stands up for encryption
Dutch government stands up for encryption

As authorities and politicians in the US press for weakening encryption standards, the Netherlands government came out in support of encryption technologies.

Dutch minister of security and justice Ard van der Steur said, “Encryption supports respect for privacy and the secret communication of citizens by providing them a means to communicate protected data confidentially and with integrity,” in a statement translated by the Daily Dot. “This is also important for the exercise of the freedom of expression.”

The comments stand in contrast to comments made by law enforcement authorities and politicians in the US who have increasingly argued against strong encryption capabilities.

“The issue is whether companies not currently subject to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act should be required to build lawful intercept capabilities for law enforcement,” said FBI director James Comey, during a presentation at the Brookings Institute in October. “We aren't seeking to expand our authority to intercept communications. We are struggling to keep up with changing technology and to maintain our ability to actually collect the communications we are authorised to intercept."

CIA director John Brennan said terrorists “have gone to school on what it is that they need to do in order to keep their activities concealed from the authorities”.

Last month, Sen Dianne Feinstein (Democrat Party, California) said she would propose legislation to force companies to de-encrypt information. “I think this world is really changing in terms of people wanting the protection and wanting law enforcement, if there is conspiracy going on over the internet, that that encryption ought to be able to be pierced,” Feinstein said.

Despite loud calls to weaken encryption standards, when US senators discovered that they were surveilled as part of an NSA intelligence campaign targeting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the response was notably different. House Intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes (Republican Party, California) said in a statement that the committee would investigate the collection of communications.

Pete Hoekstra, former chairman of the Intelligence Committee, called the report “very disturbing” and “Actually outrageous,” on Twitter. “Maybe unprecedented abuse of power,” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, former intelligence directors support strong encryption standards. Former director of the National Security Agency Mike McConnell, former homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff, and former homeland security secretary William Lynn wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post arguing for end-to-end encryption of data. 

“The smart bad guys will find ways and technologies to avoid access, and we can be sure that the ‘dark Web' marketplace will offer myriad such capabilities,” the former intelligence officials wrote. “This could lead to a perverse outcome in which law-abiding organisations and individuals lack protected communications but malicious actors have them.”

More on this story to follow.