On June 23, 2020, the “Lawful Access to Encrypted Data” Act (LAED) was introduced to the U.S. Senate. Many privacy advocates warn it could pose a serious threat to technology that safeguards users’ privacy.
The bill, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham and U.S. Senators Tom Cotton and Marsha Blackburn, requires manufacturers of encrypted devices and operating systems to have the ability to decrypt data upon request, creating a backdoor requirement.
The Senate bill is aimed at bolstering national security as well as improving protection to citizens across the U.S by eradicating the use of “warrant-proof” encrypted tech that could be used by terrorists and other criminal actors to hide illegal activity.
Many industry leaders in the tech sphere now sound the alarm that such legislation would largely inhibit people’s privacy and adversely impact everything from messaging to privacy coins.
The Impact on Tech and Cryptocurrency
The LAED Act is aimed at electronic devices and operating systems, and Zcoin Project Steward Reuben Yap believes that the regulations can easily be stretched to include cryptocurrencies as well. He stated:
“Given the trajectory of this legislation, people in the cryptocurrency industry, especially those like Zcoin [that] are privacy-focused, will very likely be affected.”
Similarly, Ian Dixon, a Nevada-based programmer who runs a validator on a privacy-oriented blockchain network, explained that the bill is a repackaged attack on privacy, and it would essentially make blockchains illegal in general.
Dixon added that there is no way for digital coins such as ETH, BTC, and other cryptocurrencies to comply.
Matt Hill, the co-founder of Start9 Labs in Colorado, hopes that politicians will remain rational and uphold individual rights to privacy by rejecting LAED.
The Implications of LAED on Privacy
The implications of such a bill becoming law could result in privacy-based startups being forced to build a backdoor on their tech or forcefully hand over user data.
In an era when privacy is being introduced in social media, telecoms, privacy coins, and numerous other sectors, a move to eliminate end-to-end encryption would seriously damage digital security and end internet freedom.
According to ZCoin’s Yap, the bill means that providers of privacy-based cryptocurrencies could be forced to insert a backdoor, essentially ending the anonymity associated with such digital tokens.
In fact, Riana Pfefferkorn, associate director of surveillance and cybersecurity at the Center for Internet, calls the bill “a full-frontal nuclear assault on encryption, adding that it was essentially a revamped crypto war.
LAED is similar to the “Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies” (“EARN IT”) Act that was recently passed on July 2 in the Senate Judiciary Committee.