Last December, I had the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands to meet with multiple European tech companies, web hosts, and other infrastructure providers.

The topic of intelligence agency backdoors and US corporate involvement with such policies came up more than once, often in not-entirely-friendly ways. It’s therefore refreshing to see the head of the NSA, Admiral Michael S. Rogers, state up front that the NSA isn’t interested in a backdoor solution to digital surveillance. Instead, he wants a so-called “front-door” solution — which could be even worse.

Instead of handing the NSA a unilateral window into encrypted communications taking place at Google or Apple, Rogers suggested a future in which the encryption keys to access such information would be divided between at least two groups — possibly more. In the simplest example, Google would retain half the key, while the NSA held the other half. Thus, the agency wouldn’t be able to unilaterally snoop inside anyone’s files — it would need Google’s support.

“I don’t want a back door,” Rogers, the director of the nation’s top electronic spy agency, said during a speech at Princeton University, according to the Washington Post. “I want a front door. And I want the front door to have multiple locks. Big locks.”

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