A coalition of high profile tech companies and privacy organizations have urged President Obama to reject any anti-encryption proposal put forward to the government that would “weaken the security of their products.” In a letter published by the Washington Post, the group of more than 140 names said the White House should “promote rather than undermine the wide adoption of strong encryption technology.”
The letter is a response to statements made by, among others, NSA director Michael S. Rogers, who put forward the suggestion that tech companies should produce some kind of digital key to let government agents gain access to private smartphones and other devices. There is concern that strong encryption techniques make enforcing the law and catching criminals harder, and a report is being drafted on the issue at this time, hence the lobbying.
“Strong encryption is the cornerstone of the modern information economy’s security,” states the letter, before going on to list the ways it protects citizens from the horrors of the online world — from street crime to corporate espionage. Adding front or backdoors to let the government in would introduce, “intentional vulnerabilities into secure products which will make those products less secure against every other attacker,” the letter warns.
There are some very big names on the list of signatures. Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all present, along with Mozilla, Adobe, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Dropbox, HP, Evernote, and Silent Circle. Some of the civil organizations include the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, American Civil Liberties Association, Human Rights Watch, the Tor Projects, and Freedom of the Press Foundation.
According to the Washington Post, FBI director James B. Comey is also at odds with the NSA. “There’s no doubt that all of us should care passionately about privacy, but we should also care passionately about protecting innocent people,” he’s quoted as saying, adding that he thinks Rogers’ position on this issue is wrong.
The letter closes by urging the president to follow the recommended route of promoting stronger encryption, which will, “lead the way to a more secure, prosperous, and rights-respecting future.”