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Open letter from nearly 200 experts takes stand against encryption backdoors

Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook has been vocally opposed in the encryption backdoor requirement debates.
Nearly 200 cyber security experts and activists from 42 countries are rallying against government plans to weaken encryption and force the use of backdoors.

Major tech players have been sparring with the U.S. government in recent years over whether or not law enforcement officials should be granted access to user communications in the fight against terrorism. Companies and security experts have repeatedly scolded these ideas, explaining that any backdoor would put ordinary users at risk.

Today the consortium of cyber activists and professionals, headed up by digital rights group Access Now, issued an open letter under the new SecureTheInternet initiative to governments around the world, including the U.S., U.K., and China, not to ban or limit people’s access to encryption and security tools.

“Users should have the option to use – and companies the option to provide – the strongest encryption available, including end-to-end encryption, without fear that governments will compel access to the content, metadata, or encryption keys without due process and respect for human rights,” the letter says.

The letter comes just a couple of days after the Obama administration met with several major tech companies to discuss how it can tackle terrorists’ use of technology. The letter includes a diverse group of companies, civil liberties groups, and researchers from more than 40 countries. Companies and groups like Human Rights Watch, Silent Circle, and John Kiriakou, a former CIA analyst, are among the signees.

The group has some strong allies, with Apple CEO Tim Cook being the most vocal about his opposition. Organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation are taking a stand against backdoors, too.

Some governments have even voiced their opposition for weakening encryption. The Dutch government recently ruled against forcing tech companies to introduce backdoors despite a growing debate around the issue in Europe since the Paris attacks in November.

On the other hand, the U.S. passed a version of the controversial CISA act in a spending bill just before Christmas. It encourages more sharing of data between businesses and government.

“Encryption and anonymity, and the security concepts behind them, provide the privacy and security necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age,” added David Kaye, the UN’s special rapporteur for freedom of opinion and expression, and a signee of the letter.

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