US tech industry asks Obama to keep hands of encryption

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By Larry Banks

Some of the top tech companies in the US have warned the Obama administration against imposing new policies that would force the companies to weaken their sophisticated encryption systems that are designed to protect consumers’ privacy.

Hands off encryption

Two industry associations that represent major software and hardware companies sent a strong letter to President Obama on Monday, saying “We are opposed to any policy actions or measures that would undermine encryption as an available and effective tool”.

The Information Technology Industry Council, and the Software and Information Industry Association, together representing tech companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft, have sent the letter as the next move in a fight over government access to smartphones and other digital devices.

Officials in the Obama administration have pushed the companies to find ways to allow law enforcement agencies to bypass encryption to investigation illegal activities such as terrorism, but not to weaken it in a way to let criminals and hackers penetrate security.

Until now the White House has not revealed any specific legislative steps that it might seek to enforce to achieve that.

Meanwhile last week, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said it was a thorny political challenge that has Obama’s attention.

He recognised the efforts of the tech companies to protect Americans’ civil liberties, but Earnest said that the firms would not want their technology to be aiding and abetting someone who is planning an act of violence.

The industry letter to the White House also went to FBI Director James Comey, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other cabinet heads.

Just days earlier, the US enacted legislation to restrict the government’s ability to record large volumes of data related to phone records of Americans.

The government surveillance largely came about as a result of the September 11th 2001 attacks on the US, and was exposed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The industry groups say that online commerce has in part flourished as consumers believe their payment information would be secure.

“Consumer trust in digital products and services is an essential component enabling continued economic growth of the online marketplace”, the industry wrote.

“Accordingly, we urge you not to pursue any policy or proposal that would require or encourage companies to weaken these technologies, including the weakening of encryption or creating encryption ‘work-arounds’.”

SOURCE: Business Insider.

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