Internet of Things Should be Part of Congressional Debate on Encryption, Lawmaker Says

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. Molly Riley/AP

Legislators have been debating whether encrypted communication could allow terrorists to skirt surveillance.

Congress should consider the Internet of Things -- the rapidly growing network of devices, objects and sensors -- as it debates whether to help law enforcement access encrypted communications, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said Wednesday. 

Within our lifetime, citizens will be in regular contact with millions of microprocessors, the Republican congressman told a small audience on Capitol Hill. (Gartner has predicted 21 billion devices will connect by 2020). 

"Will they be connected or completely vulnerable?" Issa said. "Will they be encrypted? Will there have to be a backdoor? Those questions and more very clearly fall within the debate we have to have in Congress."

Lawmakers have been debating whether encrypted communication could allow terrorists to skirt surveillance. 

As Congress debates encryption more broadly,"talking about the Internet and terrorism, let's understand if we give it up in one area, will we give it up in the areas of every connected device and if we do so, is there really any hope for a secure and reliable Internet of Things?" Issa asked. 

He added, "We have to find a way to create strong, safe and reliable connectivity and if we do there's an almost unlimited potential for efficiencies, and in fact, a better life for our family."

Issa and Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., founded the Internet of Things congressional caucus almost a year ago, intending to educate lawmakers about the evolution of the technology. On Wednesday, the two gave remarks on Capitol Hill during a panel discussion, hosted by Washington think tank the Center for Data Innovation.  

In March, Congress passed a resolution calling for a National Strategy on the Internet of Things that would incentivize development, accelerate deployment and "protect against misuse," among other goals.