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Law Enforcement and Intelligence Access to Plaintext Information in an Era of Widespread Strong Encryption: Options and Trade Offs

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Statement of Task

A National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study will examine the tradeoffs associated with mechanisms to provide authorized government agencies with access to the plaintext version of encrypted information. The study will describe the context in which decisions about such mechanisms would be made and identify and characterize possible mechanisms and alternative means of obtaining information sought by the government for law enforcement or intelligence investigations. It will seek to find ways to measure or otherwise characterize risks so that they could be weighed against the potential law enforcement or intelligence benefits. The study will not seek to answer the question of whether access mechanisms should be required but rather will provide an authoritative analysis of options and tradeoffs


The study is sponsored by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the National Science Foundation. It will be conducted on an entirely unclassified basis.

Project Information

Project Scope, Timeline, Meetings and Sponsors
Committee Membership

 If you’d like to submit comments for the study committee to consider, please email them to Note that all comments submitted will be placed in the project’s public access file.




Contact Jon Eisenberg, CSTB Senior board director and study director, at <> or 202-334-2605.