US will not seek legislation against encryption

US law enforcement agencies say encryption interferes with their work

The U.S. administration will not seek legislation at this point to counter the encryption of communications by many technology services and product vendors, but will work on a compromise with industry, a senior U.S. official said Thursday.

"The administration is not seeking legislation at this time," Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey said in a statement before a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Comey had previously asked for a "robust debate" on encryption of communications, saying that the technology could come in the way of his doing his job to keep people safe.

In his testimony, he said that the government is "actively engaged with private companies to ensure they understand the public safety and national security risks that result from malicious actors’ use of their encrypted products and services."

Civil rights groups and the tech industry have asked President Barack Obama to take a stand against any dilution of encryption, including mandating the creation of backdoors for law enforcement, citing the right of individuals to use encryption for their privacy and security.

In a recent letter to Obama, Ed Black, president and CEO, of industry body Computer & Communications Industry Association wrote that he was aware of an ongoing discussion within the administration regarding the growing availability of strong encryption in consumer products and communications systems, and its implications for criminal and counter-terrorism investigations.

"Technical and legislative policy proposals, from mandates to incentives, are being debated by a variety of stakeholders," Black wrote.

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