For months, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been demonizing strong encryption, saying its growing use threatens the ability of police to prevent serious crimes like terrorism. To avoid law enforcement “going dark,” the FBI contends, government has to be able to access all encrypted messages. But here’s the dilemma: Experts agree you can’t build “backdoors” that allow only “good guys” access to data; criminals will be able to exploit those vulnerabilities, too.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates (L) and FBI Director James Comey testify during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Going Dark: Encryption, Technology, and the Balance Between Public Safety and Privacy" in Washington July 8, 2015.

© 2015 Reuters

The bottom line is there are still many ways for the government to trace criminal activity from the clouds of data left everywhere that are not encrypted. And have no doubt: Sophisticated criminal networks like Islamic State, also known as ISIS, will find strong encryption tools to use, even if they were outlawed. So building in backdoors and exposing everyone to cybercrime for the sake of gaining more data from the less sophisticated criminals seems like a terrible bargain, in terms of both security and rights. US products will be mistrusted. Many people who rely on secure communications for the protection of their lives, safety, and basic freedoms will suffer.

We’ve documented how activists, journalists, lawyers, and others can’t protect rights without privacy. And the US State Department recognizes this problem and invests millions of dollars to provide activists secure communications tools and train them in this technology.

Even the US National Security Council in a draft memo suggested that a potential presidential pledge not to legislate against strong encryption would have many benefits. But it didn’t take off the table pressuring companies to provide voluntary backdoor access.

One voice has been conspicuously absent from the debate: President Obama’s. We are asking you to send him a letter, requesting he once and for all put the United States firmly on the side of strong encryption, and say no to both legislative bans and government pressure on companies to provide backdoors. If you agree it’s time to hear the president endorse security for all, rather than surveillance for all, please make your voice heard too.