The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) issued a press release via Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) announcing that it wants “a solution to access encrypted data for investigation purposes.”
Specifically, the RCMP wants an artificial intelligence (AI) decryption system “that can process the seized data files and generate specific word lists to try and access the encrypted material” because it’s “facing challenges in accessing encrypted data,” which is kind of the point of encrypting it.
Aside from the fact that handing law enforcement a tool to decrypt encrypted data is a terrible idea, the whole press release has a dystopian vibe to it. The release positions the request as a “challenge” for small businesses issued by ISED and led by the RCMP.
ISED gives small businesses until December 16th to “apply to the challenge.” Further, ISED notes that the government invites small businesses to come up with “a new innovative product, service or solution that answers a specific challenge” through the Innovative Solutions Canada program. Moreover, the release says that “winning” small businesses can receive up to $150,000 to refine research and development and, if they’re accepted into phase 2, receive up to $1 million to develop a working prototype.
“The government can then act as a first customer, helping these businesses commercialize their innovations, scale up their business and create good middle-class jobs across Canada,” the release reads.
So, the feds basically want a business to create an AI tool to decrypt encrypted data as part of a “challenge,” will provide funding for the research and development and wants to be the first customer for the tool. Neat.
Of course, there are plenty of other concerns about law enforcement agencies having such a tool. For one, there’s always the possibility of misuse or abuse of the tool, and there will almost certainly be privacy violations. Not that the RCMP really cares — when the Privacy Commissioner said the RCMP violated Canadians’ privacy using the Clearview AI facial recognition tool, the RCMP basically responded with “Actually, we didn’t!”
Perhaps of greater concern is the possibility that malicious actors could gain access to or steal the tool, which would be really bad for everyone.
And when you consider that are several alternate ways for law enforcement to work around encryption, it seems unnecessary to pursue such a dangerous, problematic tool.