The potential international effects of a domestic decryption mandate have been a significant factor in the debate over U.S. encryption policy. Some fear that a U.S. decryption mandate would empower authoritarian regimes and would clash with the United States’ international Internet-freedom agenda.
Unfortunately, the debate over encryption policy’s international effects has been conducted principally in ideological terms rather than on the basis of observable facts and fact-based predictions about future developments. This paper proposes key questions to stimulate and guide a more factually informed debate. It also offers several recommendations for shifting the debate onto sounder empirical terrain.