The Dutch government will, “at this time”, “not adopt restrictive legislative measures against the development, availability and use of encryption within the Netherlands.” This statement was posted by the Dutch government in a letter to the Dutch parliament on 4 January 2016. This is clearly a position to be applauded.
In the letter (unofficial translation), the government recognises the importance of encryption for the entire society. The ministers of Economic Affairs and Security and Justice find that “cryptography plays a key role in technical security in the digital domain.” This not only applies to companies protecting their business secrets and customer data, but also to the government itself. The Dutch government indeed “increasingly communicates with citizens via digital means, and provides services where confidential data is exchanged.” Citizens benefit from encryption, because it allows them to “ensure privacy and confidentially of their communication.” This is “also important for exercising the right to free speech,” according to the government.
Of equal importance is the realisation that it is not possible to weaken encryption by just a little bit. The government argues that “there is no outlook on possibilities to, in a general sense, for instance via standards, weaken encryption products without compromising the security of digital systems that use encryption.” Hence, when introducing back doors that would enable prosecution and intelligence services to access encrypted files on digital systems – these encrypted systems “can become vulnerable to criminals, terrorists and foreign intelligence services.”
The weakening of encryption would have undesirable consequences for the security of our digital infrastructure. And that is why the Dutch government concludes that “at this time, it is not appropriate to adopt restrictive legislative measures against the development, availability and use of encryption within the Netherlands.” The government will propagate this position “in the international context.” The letter ends with the commitment to grant 500.000 Euro to the widely used encryption software library OpenSSL, as proposed by the parliament. This is a highly commendable position.