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Encryption could drive government to break into your cloud


As more people use encrypted methods to browse the Web, it will become trickier for law enforcement agencies to intercept private communications in real-time, causing them to focus instead on tapping data that is stored in the cloud, according to the draft of an academic paper by a former privacy advisor to the Clinton Administration.

“Effective encryption is in the midst of becoming the default way that many communications occur on the Internet,” reads the paper by Peter Swire, the former chief counselor for privacy in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton Administration, and now a law professor at Ohio State University. He highlights an Internet landscape where people have options such as virtual private networks, which give them secure pathways to browse the Internet, and encrypted email services from free email providers, such as Gmail.

The rise of encryption tools will create a chasm between sophisticated intelligence agencies and less tech-savvy law enforcement divisions and widen the “separation between ‘have’ and ‘have not’ agencies” that are able to tap encrypted data, Swire writes.

As it becomes more difficult for some agencies to intercept data, “government access to communications thus increasingly relies on a new and limited set of methods, notably featuring access to stored records in the cloud,” Swire argues.

He argues that cloud services -- such as online data storage systems -- “very often” have access to the contents of communications. “It will thus very often be technically possible for the companies to respond to lawful access requests,” the paper notes.

(Image via winui /

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