President Obama is about to receive a letter signed by dozens upon dozens of companies and organizations, urging him to resist giving government agencies access to citizens' personal data via backdoors in encrypted devices.
"We urge you to reject any proposal that U.S. companies deliberately weaken the security of their products. We request that the White House instead focus on developing policies that will promote rather than undermine the wide adoption of strong encryption technology. Such policies will in turn help to promote and protect cybersecurity, economic growth, and human rights, both here and abroad," says the letter.
"We are writing today to respond to recent statements by some Administration officials regarding the deployment of strong encryption technology in the devices and services offered by the U.S. technology industry. Those officials have suggested that American companies should refrain from providing any products that are secured by encryption, unless those companies also weaken their security in order to maintain the capability to decrypt their customers’ data at the government’s request. Some officials have gone so far as to suggest that Congress should act to ban such products or mandate such capabilities."
The idea that devices should be encrypted but not that encrypted is one that's been gloated around as of late by officials like U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.
The “current course [the technology industry is on], toward deeper and deeper encryption in response to the demands of the marketplace, is one that presents real challenges for those in law enforcement and national security," said Johnson recently. "Encryption is making it harder for your government to find criminal activity and potential terrorist activity.”
The consortium argues against backdoors (or front doors or whatever you want to call them) that would allow access to encrypted devices.
"Encryption thereby protects us from innumerable criminal and national security threats. This protection would be undermined by the mandatory insertion of any new vulnerabilities into encrypted devices and services. Whether you call them 'front doors' or 'back doors', introducing intentional vulnerabilities into secure products for the government’s use will make those products less secure against other attackers. Every computer security expert that has spoken publicly on this issue agrees on this point, including the government’s own experts," says the letter.
The letter is signed by companies like Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and Yahoo – as well as privacy organizations like the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and over 50 security and policy experts.
According to the Washington Post, the letter is also signed by "three of the five members of a presidential review group appointed by Obama in 2013 to assess technology policies in the wake of leaks by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden."
"The Administration faces a critical choice: will it adopt policies that foster a global digital ecosystem that is more secure, or less? That choice may well define the future of the Internet in the 21st century," they say.
Image via White House, Twitter