Researchers file for access to court orders that force companies to break their own encryption

"The researchers are members of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School and part of the organization’s Crypto Policy Project, a group established in 2015 to investigate the government policies “forcing decryption and/or influencing crypto-related design of online platforms and services, devices, and products, both via technical means and through the courts.”

The petition, filed Thursday in the federal district court for the Northern District of California, aims to unseal not only government applications for technical assistance but also the judicial opinions interpreting the requests, as well as any court orders obligating companies to hand over user encryption keys or “otherwise ensure investigators access to private data.”

The researchers plan to ensure that any documents the court unseals are published in the interest of informing the public about this important policy debate.

“Because surveillance orders are usually sealed and often remain so, people do not know what kind of technical assistance the government is entitled to obtain from communications companies under current law,” CIS Director of Civil Liberties Jennifer Granick said in a statement. “We want to know whether the FBI has asked for or successfully obtained court orders to turn on microphones or cameras in cars, laptops, and mobile phones, or to use smart TVs or other audio- and video-enabled Internet-connected devices for wiretapping."