Welcome to Codebook, the Axios cybersecurity newsletter coming to you this week from Scott Rosenberg.
Today's Codebook is 1,611 words, a 6-minute read.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday set up what's likely to be the most consequential national debate on encryption since the 1990s.
The big picture: The technical community's long-held consensus against weakening encryption is colliding head-on with bipartisan political hostility toward the Big Tech companies that are making encrypted communications an internet default.
Driving the news: Senators from both sides of the aisle lit into representatives of Apple and Facebook at the Tuesday hearing, telling the companies that if they don't voluntarily find a way for the government to access the data it seeks to stop crimes, Congress will legislate one.
Meanwhile, Attorney General William Barr has been pursuing his own campaign, launched with a speech last summer, promoting the need for back doors to encrypted devices and communications.
History lesson: The U.S. government's one significant attempt at the creation of encryption back doors — the Clinton administration's Clipper Chip program, which lasted from 1993 to 1996 — was a technical and market failure.
That '90s fight took place right as the formerly academic internet went mainstream, and it pitted "crypto rebels" against a government establishment, with the telecom industry caught in between.
Our thought bubble: We could end up with an encryption law for the 2020s that mandates some kind of updated Clipper Chip (likely via software rather than hardware) — not because anyone thinks it will work, but because lawmakers and voters of both parties have lost trust in the tech companies that oppose it.
Google on Wednesday offered a roundup of its efforts to keep census misinformation from infesting YouTube, search, ads and other products. It's the latest effort from a tech platform to show it's taking the 2020 census seriously, Axios' Kyle Daly reports.
Why it matters: Census results from 2020 will be used to draw political districts in 2022, shaping democratic representation in the U.S. for a decade.
At Google, ads and YouTube videos that misinform people about when or how to take part in the census are banned, per a Wednesday blog post.
At Facebook, COO Sheryl Sandberg promised in June that "we’re going to treat next year’s census like an election."
On Twitter, the service bans false or misleading information about elections and other civic events (like the census).
What's next: The Census Bureau will conduct its count by mail, phone, the internet and in-home visits next year, primarily in the spring.
Sen. Mike Crapo. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images
A Republican senator is blocking bipartisan legislation meant to counter foreign election interference, saying it is more anti-Trump than anti-Russia, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill reports.
The big picture: The Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act of 2019 is sponsored and supported by both Republicans and Democrats. But efforts to counter Russian election interference have often run afoul of the Trump administration, which has frequently downplayed Russian meddling in the 2016 race and pointed a finger (without evidence) at Ukraine instead.
Driving the news: Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) objected Tuesday when Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) sought consent to pass the DETER bill, as reported by The Hill.
Yes, but: The DETER Act was introduced by Van Hollen and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and counts other Republicans as co-sponsors.
Why it matters: The stalled legislation comes as U.S. intelligence agencies predict Russia and other foreign countries will attempt to interfere in the 2020 election.
The national capital region (Washington, D.C., metro area) accounts for 12% of all U.S. workers in the information security field — more than double the San Francisco Bay Area.
Yes, but: When it comes to artificial intelligence talent, San Francisco and Seattle have almost 40% of the total workforce, Axios' Kim Hart reports.
Why it matters: "Regions should consider what kinds of skills they need to achieve to support their local economies, and then choose a couple of areas to make bigger bets (based on current gaps relative to where there is demand) to help an area thrive," said McKinsey partner Brooke Weddle, who co-authored a report with the Greater Washington Partnership to evaluate the D.C. region's talent pipeline.
Quick take: Data security and AI are increasingly intertwined, and the potential for adversaries to use AI to automate large-scale attacks is a major threat. So look for these employment clusters to even out as the fields integrate over time.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
"Keen-eyed readers will have noticed that in last week's newsletter, we said we'd be off for vacation until next year. But I have some personal news to share that probably shouldn't wait until next year: The last issue of Codebook was my very last issue of Codebook. I'll be leaving Axios in the new year in search of my next adventure and spending the next few weeks helping the company transition to a less-chaotic, Joe-less existence.
I'd like to thank all of you for reading what was an experimental cybersecurity newsletter about my mom, Godzilla, and bad career decisions. We also, occasionally, did some pretty OK journalism. But it's now time for someone else's mom to take Codebook's reins."
Axios will miss Joe. Look for Codebook's return in January, and have a great holiday!