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Will Canada weaken encryption with backdoors?

By Byron Holland
President and CEO

The ‘Five Eyes’ security alliance is pushing tech companies to build backdoors to encrypted sites, putting Canadian user data, privacy and security at risk

This piece originally appeared in Maclean’s on October 18, 2019.

Imagine you wake up one morning and discover that the federal government is requiring everyone to keep their back doors unlocked. First responders need access your house in an emergency, they say, and locked doors are a significant barrier to urgent care. For the good of the nation, public health concerns outweigh the risk to your privacy and security.

Sounds crazy, right? Unfortunately, a number of governments are considering a policy just like this for the internet, and there’s growing concern that the Canadian government could soon follow suit.

Every day millions of online transactions are protected by a technology called encryption. Encryption is a form of security just like the lock on your house. It prevents outsiders from snooping in on your information and content as it passes over the web. It secures everything from banking information to military communications to online dating apps. It also protects critical infrastructure like hydroelectric dams and the internet.

Right now, there is an ongoing debate over so-called “encryption backdoors,” special access points that governments can force or compel tech companies to build. Essentially, these are unlocked doors on the web that allow authorities to access encrypted communications without users’ consent.

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About the author
Byron Holland

Byron Holland (MBA, ICD.D) is the president and CEO of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), the national not-for-profit best known for managing the .CA domain and developing new cybersecurity, DNS, and registry services.

Byron is an expert in internet governance and a seasoned entrepreneur. Under Byron’s leadership, CIRA has become one of the leading ccTLDs in the world, with over 3 million domains under management. Over the past decade, he has represented CIRA internationally and held numerous leadership positions within ICANN. He currently sits on the Board of Directors for TORIX, and is a member of the nominations committee for ARIN. He lives in Ottawa with his wife, two sons, and their Australian shepherd, Marley.

The views expressed in this blog are Byron’s opinions on internet-related issues, and are not necessarily those of the organization.