As consumers increasingly adopt encryption tools, government officials have warned of the “Going Dark” problem – the notion that widespread encryption will thwart legitimate government efforts to investigate crime and safeguard national security. To address this problem, law enforcement and intelligence community officials have suggested that companies include “backdoors” in their products to permit lawful government access to encrypted data. This proposal has been met with criticism from technologists and privacy advocates alike. Technology experts have explained that encryption backdoors will jeopardize security and render us more vulnerable to cyber attacks. Privacy advocates say that the government already has unprecedented access to individuals’ communications and argue that we live in the “Golden Age of Surveillance.”

On September 21,  Just Security, the Center on National Security and the Law, and the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law held a wide-ranging discussion on the legal issues and policy questions at the heart of the “Going Dark” debate. The discussion featured: Robert S. Litt, General Counsel, Office of the Director of National Intelligence; Kiran Raj, Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, US Department of Justice; Julian Sanchez, Founding Editor, Just Security and Senior Fellow, Cato Institute; Wendy Seltzer, Policy Counsel, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Visiting Fellow, Yale Law School Information Society Project; and Jonathan Mayer, Graduate Fellow, Stanford University Department of Computer Science and Lecturer, Stanford Law School. Paul Ohm, Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Center on Privacy and Technology, Georgetown University Law Center, moderated the panel.