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California Rep. Issa sides with Silicon Valley over encryption debate

Apple's encryption fight with the FBI in 2015 brought to light a growing conflict between the mandates of government — the stated need for surveillance powers to monitor potential threats — and Silicon Valley — the need for encryption to ensure individual privacy.

One conservative congressman, at least, is firmly on the side of Silicon Valley.

Despite several impassioned investigations on national security, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said that there is no problem with the way encryption is today — and that the demands of government are not "anywhere close" to a solution that would satisfy most citizens' privacy concerns.

"We have advocates that want us to change the law. It might solve a problem for the FBI director, so that he can spy on America more, so he can quickly get whatever he wants whenever he wants it," Issa told CNBC. "We do not have a problem today. We have a request from law enforcement and intelligence to help them with their problem, which is that you and I, in being able to enforce our Fourth Amendment rights, they feel their job's harder."

Issa spoke to CNBC from technology trade show CES in Las Vegas this month, where he used his expertise in car and home alarms to discuss, among other things, the internet of things and the sharing economy.

Representative Darrell Issa arrives for a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower, December 14, 2016, in New York.
Bryan R. Smith | AFP | Getty Images
Representative Darrell Issa arrives for a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower, December 14, 2016, in New York.

Issa suggested that with encrypted messaging, like WhatsApp, widely commercially available, consumers should get a simple one-page, comparable description of their different privacy options, as is customary with a loan. But it must be done in a way that doesn't stifle innovation, he said.

"Educational campaigns to consumers are very often hogwash — it's a very large amount of money to educate a very small fraction of people," Issa said. "Data disclosure of what is being kept and where it's being kept needs to be made uniform and as simple as possible. ... Those are all areas where the Trump administration can do much of it, and Congress can do some of it."

Issa also said enabling the best technology will be a key mandate for the new U.S. Congress.

Making America's manufacturing technology top-notch, avoiding harmful encryption standards and creating clearer privacy disclosures should be top tech priorities for Congress, Issa said.

In particular, the U.S. should be recruiting engineers that can make America the best place in the world to manufacture a car, Issa said. Issa has introduced legislation to require high-skilled H-1B immigration spots to be reserved for companies that cannot fill the slots with American workers.