Why Google and Apple Don’t Want to Give Law Enforcement the Master Key to …

19 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Apple and Google ask Obama to leave smartphone security alone.

Heavyweights of the tech industry including Apple and Google sent an open letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday urging his administration to reject any legislative proposal that would give government agencies access to encrypted smartphone data. “We urge you to reject any proposal that U.S. companies deliberately weaken the security of their products,” wrote the signatories, a rainbow coalition of technology firms, cybersecurity experts and privacy advocates.Over 140 tech companies, including Google and Apple, have signed a letter to Obama that urges him not to weaken the encryption that keeps internet communications hidden from snoopers including the government. “Strong encryption is the cornerstone of the modern information economy’s security,” said the letter, which was also signed by technologists and civil rights groups.

FBI director James Comey has asked Congress for help getting around the upgraded encryption on Apple’s smartphone, something he believes is creating too high a hurdle for law enforcement.Google, Apple and other technology giants have teamed up with leading cryptologists to urge the Obama administration to resist pressure from US law enforcement and surveillance agencies to make smartphones and other communications devices easier to hack.

The letter urges the US government to “fully support and not undermine efforts to create encryption standards” and not “in any way subvert, undermine, weaken or make vulnerable” commercial software. David Cameron has outlined similar plans, saying that the country should not “allow a means of communication between people which […] we cannot read”.

There have been laws kicking around Congress for a while that would create the kind of backdoors Comey and other security hawks have been pushing for. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jeremy Gillula said: “There is no way to put in a back door or magic key for law enforcement that malevolent actors won’t also be able to abuse.” His comments came in a blog post following Apple’s announcement last year that iOS 8 would be encrypted by default. At the same time, many technology companies have strengthened their encryption, making it impossible for them to read messages even in response to requests from lawmakers. CALEA II is one such bill, but it trips over all the outsized fears about government surveillance that the public has long held, even more so in the wake of Edward Snowden and revelations about just how much of our everyday communication is being vacuumed up by the NSA. The law enforcement agencies claim that the loss of access to data and communications could threaten public safety. “There’s no doubt that all of us should care passionately about privacy, but we should also care passionately about protecting innocent people,” FBI Director James B.

As we wrote back in October of 2014, that means “Comey’s left exactly where we started, making ominous noises and generating headlines favorable to the FBI, but not actually doing anything. But uploading to the cloud doesn’t include all of the stored data on a bad guy’s phone, which has the potential to create a black hole for law enforcement.” These comments drew the first suggestions of back-doors being introduced, with law enforcement saying their job is being made harder, and now the wider tech industry are moving to try to kill such talk. It was only this year that he was subject to many rumoured cyber attacks and hacking scandals, so you’d think he’d be inclined to agree with whatever the full letter asks. In April, for instance, it was found that Obama’s emails were intercepted by Russian hackers in a breach of the White House’s computer system last year. The letter seen by the Washington Post is signed by three members of a five-strong group of technologists that Obama appointed to review his technoloy policies.

Or perhaps, as candidates from both parties eagerly line up for the 2016 presidential election, this is a message to an aspiring @POTUS about where some of the wealthiest and most politically active tech giants in the US are focused. However, Jonathan Turley, a constitutional-law professor at the George Washington University Law School, said that citizens should not assume that these encryption devices will necessarily prevent government from intercepting communications. “If history is any guide, the government will find a way to penetrate these devices,” he said.

In January, Prime Minister David Cameron promised to pass a law in the next Parliament to ensure that the police and Security Services can read all messages sent over the internet, as part of a new Communications Data Bill – branded a “snoopers’ charter” by critics. “We do need to modernise our rules about interception. I think we cannot allow modern forms of communication to be exempt from the ability – in extremis, with a warrant signed by the Home Secretary – to be exempt from being listened to,” he said at the time.

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