Whether or not the NSA or FBI has the legal right to acquire master encryption keys from Internet providers, they continue to request them. In order to protect their users web communications, Internet companies use encryption keys. Web encryption uses a technique called SSL (Secure Sockets Layer.)
A source that represents a large unnamed Internet company told CNET News that so far these requests have been resisted on the grounds that they go beyond what the law permits.
But we can’t be certain if that is true when prevalent Internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft have declined to disclose even whether or not they have received requests for encryption key requests. Additionally, companies such as Apple, Yahoo, AOL, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and Comcast declined to respond to questions regarding if they would divulge encryption keys to government agencies.
Another anonymous source voiced concerns that although large Internet companies are supposedly resisting government demands for encryption keys, smaller companies without legal support might be less willing to put up a fight.
According to a former Justice Department official, “the requests are coming (not because of NSA alone) but because the Internet is very rapidly changing to an encrypted model.”
Obtaining a company’s master encryption key, allows the government to decrypt the contents of communications captured via wiretap or by enforcing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Federal and state law enforcement officials have previously said encrypted communications were beginning to pose an obstacle to lawful surveillance.
An FBI general counsel at the time of a 2011 congressional hearing, Valerie Caproni, said the following according to the transcript:
Encryption is a problem, and it is a problem that we see for certain providers… For individuals who put encryption on their traffic, we understand that there would need to be some individualized solutions if we get a wiretap order for such persons…We are suggesting that if the provider has the communications in the clear and we have a wiretap order, that the provider should give us those communications in the clear.
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Source: CNET News
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