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Attorney general says the government should have access to your encrypted data

Attorney General William Barr
Drew Angerer / Getty Images

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said on Tuesday that Americans should be okay with the government having backdoor access to your encrypted data.

In a keynote speech at the International Conference on Cyber Security at Fordham University in New York on Tuesday, Barr said that in order for law enforcement to have access to encrypted communications, Americans need to accept the risks associated with backdoors.

A backdoor essentially allows the government to bypass your security or encryption and gain easy access to your devices or data. In his speech, Barr called for tech companies to assist federal authorities in gaining access to people’s devices when necessary.

“The rest of the world has woken up to this threat,” Barr said, according to Bloomberg. “It is time for the United States to stop debating whether to address it and start talking about how to address it.”

The U.S. government and big tech companies have long been engaged in a standoff over encryption Proponents of encryption argue that’s it’s the only way to keep private data safe from prying eyes and that giving the government backdoor access is a dangerous threat to users. But Barr and other argue that it’s necessary for national security and federal investigations. Barr said Tuesday that tech companies should create backdoors voluntarily, but that time was running out on a “cooperative approach.”

Tech companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft and WhatsApp condemned the United Kingdom’s recent proposal, called the “ghost protocol” that suggests encrypted messages should be copied and sent to law enforcement agencies who would act as unseen “ghost users.” 

Apple CEO, Tim Cook, took a stand against the issue in 2016, saying that encryption and privacy on the internet is a fundamental right. 

Even Facebook, which has many issues with users’ privacy, said in March that they now want to focus on private interactions and encryption to focus on better security for its users. 

Still, Barr said a cooperative approach between tech companies and the government is needed. 

“Whether we end up with legislation or not, the best course for everyone involved is to work soberly and in good faith together to craft appropriate solutions, rather than have outcomes dictated during a crisis,” he said at the conference, which was hosted by the FBI and Fordham University in New York. 

Digital Trends reached out to the Department of Justice to see if they have made any progress in working with big tech companies to develop backdoors into people’s devices, but have yet to receive a response. 

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