About 140 tech companies, civil rights activists, academics, and privacy advocates addressed President Obama a letter urging his administration not to give in to National Security Agency and FBI’s requests to weaken encryption on phones and other devices.
The letter was one of the latest rounds in a string of debates between tech companies and the U.S. government, which aggressively seeks new methods of gaining access to encrypted private data under the guise of fighting terrorism and other national security threats.
President Obama was urged to deny any attempt of forcing U.S. companies to weaken the security of their goods and services. The tech companies, including Google and Apple, argued that proper encryption was the “cornerstone” of our information-based society.
They explained that encryption was necessary because it shielded people from “countless threats” such as burglars trying to deprive them of their mobile devices, hackers trying to learn their bank accounts’ info, corporate spies trying to gain access to sensitive information, government agencies trying to hinder free speech, and international spies trying to compromise national security.
The recent move was triggered by a series of requests from the FBI and NSA, which made a plea for enhanced powers and full access to encrypted data whenever a federal investigation was going on.
Google, Apple and other companies and groups that signed the letter said that encryption methods should not be weakened and government agencies have no right to hold master keys to encrypted data. The only ones who should hold the keys are the users, signatories claim. They also decline to hand over user information to the government even if there is a court order that compels them to.
The letter was also signed by Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter. The tech firms explained that granting the government a “back door” would automatically weaken overall security of the entire device.
According to the letter, implementing “intentional vulnerabilities” into encrypted products, which can later be exploited by the government for lawful purposes, opens the door to “other attackers,” as well, and compromises the products’ security.
“Every computer security expert that has spoken publicly on this issue agrees on this point, including the government’s own experts,”
the letter concludes.
The Open Technology Institute argues that the letter was necessary to help Obama administration give the most appropriate response to recent NSA and FBI requests to weaken encryption technology security.
Privacy advocates also said that encryption backdoors harm privacy, companies, security, and are very harmful to human rights.
Image Source: Information-Age
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