Manhattan DA Vance leads a press conference (photo: @NYPDnews)
As an elected member of the state Assembly, one of my main priorities is to ensure New Yorkers have a government that works with them to protect their rights and their safety. That’s why I’ve become increasingly concerned by the steps Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has taken to undermine digital privacy through his weak position on encryption protection.
Americans are rightfully worried about the confidentiality of their electronic information, from financial documents and medical records to simpler things like texts and emails. That fear is confirmed every time a major company or government agency has its system breached.
But DA Vance, along with President Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, wants unfettered access to the data and information stored on our smartphones by forcing manufacturers to weaken the privacy protection technologies they’ve created and to install so-called “backdoors” into the devices.
What they want is the ability to bypass the encryption technology that allows only the sender and the recipient of a message - like a text - to see it. They argue that these backdoors will help law enforcement solve certain crimes, but the reality is the very small percentage of cases that could be helped is far eclipsed by the danger of weakening encryption for the rest of us.
They describe these backdoors as small, but in truth they are a wide-open front door for a hacker or foreign government to gain access to almost any smart phone in America. Vance and Sessions are naive if they believe that once a technology is created, only “good guys” will use it. Rogue hackers or hostile foreign governments will use the same tactics.
Vance and Sessions must look for real solutions that protect our privacy and do not involve undermining the security of our data.
Dan Quart is a member of the New York State Assembly representing Manhattan’s East Side. On Twitter @AMDanQuart.