Apple and Google Beg Obama to Reject Encryption Backdoors

By Jamie Condliffe on at

A collection of tech giants — including companies such as Apple and Google, along with noted cryptologists — have sent Barack Obama a letter urging him to reject US government proposals to include backdoors in encrypted communication systems.

The letter, send Tuesday, was obtained by The Washington Post. The newspaper explains that the plea is signed by “more than 140 tech companies, prominent technologists and civil society groups.” In the letter, they write that “strong encryption is the cornerstone of the modern information economy’s security.”

The FBI and Justice Department have declared that they support encryption but would also like to be able to access citizen data; in effect demanding that backdoors be installed in the encryption systems of new devices, allowing them to snoop at will. The likes of Apple and Google, both of whom are pro-encryption, rightly see that an encryption system with a backdoor is rather pointless: any such route is a vulnerability that can be exploited.

The newspaper reports that the letter is 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”. Also on the list is a series of policy experts and privacy experts.

Whether it will prove a success remains to be seen. But the message is clear: the industry doesn’t think government backdoors are a good idea, and the administration won’t make any friends if it stubbornly bows to FBI and Justice Department requests. [Washington Post]

Image by Whitehouse/Pete Souza