Apple, other tech companies ask Obama to reject proposals for software backdoors

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2015
In a letter to be delivered to President Barack Obama on Tuesday, Apple is among a group of signatories requesting the White House reject incoming government proposals that would modify current policies to allow law enforcement access to encrypted user data.




As reported by The Washington Post, which gained access to the letter on Monday, Apple joins a cadre of more than 140 tech companies, security experts and interested civil groups concerned with upcoming legislation that could force access to consumer data, even if it is encrypted.

"Strong encryption is the cornerstone of the modern information economy's security," the letter reads. Further, signatories unanimously recommend that government agencies should "fully support and not undermine efforts to create encryption standards."

According to The Post, three signatories were on a five-member presidential review team formed to investigate U.S. technology policy in 2013, just after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden sparked public outrage by leaking information regarding secret government surveillance programs. Among the revelations aired by Snowden was the existence of mass data collection initiatives targeting everything from phone calls to social networks and other high-traffic consumer products.

Law enforcement officials claim technology companies like Apple are making their job increasingly difficult by rolling out opaque encryption techniques that make data and other forms of communication inaccessible. Some agencies are requesting so-called "backdoors" be built into otherwise secure software with the express purpose of accessing data deemed vital to criminal investigations.

With iOS 8, Apple built an encryption system so secure that it is technically incapable of decrypting a user's device even with the appropriate documentation. The lockout method was not well received by officials wanting access to user data, a procedure allowed through proper warrants.

For example, former Deputy Attorney General James Cole said at the time that Apple's iOS encryption poses a hinderance to crime fighting operations and would one day lead to the death of a child. FBI Director James Comey voiced similar concerns, saying iOS data encryption puts consumers "above the law" and Apple is actively advertising that fact.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 32
    How are there no comments on this. it is incredible what the gov't would do to get our information. God forbid we have privacy especially on our mobile devices. I got nothing to hide, but the sheer fact that nothing can be private is atrocious. Trying to state that the privacy of our devices will cause the death of a child is ridiculous. If a sadistic nut job wants to cause harm, they will find a way.

    I applaud all the tech companies for fighting for our privacy.
  • Reply 2 of 32
    jfc1138jfc1138 Posts: 3,090member
    "How are there no comments on this."

    It was posted after midnight. People have to sleep.
  • Reply 3 of 32
    jfc1138 wrote: »
    "How are there no comments on this."

    It was posted after midnight. People have to sleep.
    It's after midnight all over the world? Amazing!
  • Reply 4 of 32
    blitz1blitz1 Posts: 412member
    encryption would be responsible for the death of a child...
    How about firearms?

    Let's consider first which kind of representatives asks for backdoors
  • Reply 5 of 32
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jfc1138 View Post



    "How are there no comments on this."



    It was posted after midnight. People have to sleep.



    Seriously,  there is a whole world outside of the US.

  • Reply 6 of 32
    bestkeptsecretbestkeptsecret Posts: 3,328member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by diplication View Post





    It's after midnight all over the world? Amazing!



    For now it is a US-centric story, so obviously @jfc1138's observation was valid. 

  • Reply 7 of 32
    nick29nick29 Posts: 111member
    From what I recall, part of the Edward Snowden revelations were that Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc. have already allowed the Feds a backdoor to their (our) data. This sounds like windown dressing to me. I'm all for making it harder if not impossible for this type of surveillance, but I don't think Apple and the rest have been honest about what they have already allowed to be done.
  • Reply 8 of 32
    lightknightlightknight Posts: 2,312member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Nick29 View Post



    From what I recall, part of the Edward Snowden revelations were that Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc. have already allowed the Feds a backdoor to their (our) data. This sounds like windown dressing to me. I'm all for making it harder if not impossible for this type of surveillance, but I don't think Apple and the rest have been honest about what they have already allowed to be done.



    That's an interesting point. Another: most customers of Apple (and Windows) aren't American. The indignation at the US government spying on US citizens is irrelevant to most of Apple's customers. What matters to them is the US government spying on them ;)

     

    Also, China. But I think you can anyway conclude any text nowadays by "also, China"", and it will mean something sensible :p

  • Reply 9 of 32
    brakkenbrakken Posts: 681member
    So, law-enforcement officers are complaining they must follow the law.

    Cue Dr Evil: Mmmrrright.
  • Reply 10 of 32
    steven n.steven n. Posts: 1,120member
    nick29 wrote: »
    From what I recall, part of the Edward Snowden revelations were that Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc. have already allowed the Feds a backdoor to their (our) data. This sounds like windown dressing to me. I'm all for making it harder if not impossible for this type of surveillance, but I don't think Apple and the rest have been honest about what they have already allowed to be done.

    None of his posts actually said that. Snowden's data simply showed that the NSA had gained access to various companies systems. That could (more reasonably) they had learned to exploit weaknesses and knew how to circumvent the implemented encryption. Take the "go to fail" issue found in Apple's secure layer code for an example.
  • Reply 11 of 32
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,223member
    I've said this before, and I'll say it again: if we don't have the right to privacy, we can't really have 1st, 2nd, 4th, or 5th amendment rights.
  • Reply 12 of 32
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,749member
    For the interested few Kara Swisher interviewed Obama on this topic a few weeks ago. In essence he says he's a strong proponent of privacy and encryption but at the same time notes there's instances where it's essential for law enforcement to access user data in cases of terrorism and/or national threats. More to read here:
    http://recode.net/2015/02/15/white-house-red-chair-obama-meets-swisher/
  • Reply 13 of 32
    joogabahjoogabah Posts: 118member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ClaudiusMaximus View Post



    How are there no comments on this. it is incredible what the gov't would do to get our information. God forbid we have privacy especially on our mobile devices. I got nothing to hide, but the sheer fact that nothing can be private is atrocious. Trying to state that the privacy of our devices will cause the death of a child is ridiculous. If a sadistic nut job wants to cause harm, they will find a way.



    I applaud all the tech companies for fighting for our privacy.

    Your dissent is noted... forever.

  • Reply 14 of 32
    In the case of a legally aquired warrant it should be decrypted. I would not want justice to be mishandled because a piece of evidence could not be accessed. If it's just for the government sniffing purposes then hell no.


    On that note it only takes one screw up in America to cause drastic change. If they can proof beyond a doubt a major crime could have been prevented then they would easily get sweeping change.
  • Reply 15 of 32
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,980member
    It's after midnight all over the world? Amazing!

    At what point does it become 'before midnight'? Noon?
  • Reply 16 of 32
    fred1fred1 Posts: 329member
    The U.S. Bill of Rights: Amazing for its time and for many years. It was great while it lasted.
  • Reply 17 of 32
    gregquinngregquinn Posts: 77member

    This boils down to a complete lack of trust of law enforcement personnel to use back doors only when absolutely needed. I don't especially want either my kids nor myself harmed by terrorists, but NSA has shot itself in the foot by essentially running unrestrained (and over-funded) for decades. If there was decent oversight I wouldn't mind. 

     

    As for the UK, successive governments rubber stamp absolutely ANYTHING GCHQ wants to do. If you notice, the Snowden leaks almost always point to GCHQ as much as NSA.

  • Reply 18 of 32
    In nearly every country in the world, the agency with the most power to harm citizens is not terrorists, but the government. If governments have the power to tap into all your information and communications, you can bet they will eventually make it illegal for a citizen to be without a mobile device (smart watch/phone) they can track and monitor. Electronic spy/shackles compulsory for everyone, "for their own good".

    The ability to have secrets must be a jealously guarded right.
  • Reply 19 of 32
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,191member
    gatorguy wrote: »
    For the interested few Kara Swisher interviewed Obama on this topic a few weeks ago. In essence he says he's a strong proponent of privacy and encryption but at the same time notes there's instances where it's essential for law enforcement to access user data in cases of terrorism and/or national threats. More to read here:
    http://recode.net/2015/02/15/white-house-red-chair-obama-meets-swisher/

    As a person whose sworn duty is to uphold and protect the Constitution, he has been doing a lousy job. 2016 can't come fast enough.
  • Reply 20 of 32
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,223member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

     
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post



    For the interested few Kara Swisher interviewed Obama on this topic a few weeks ago. In essence he says he's a strong proponent of privacy and encryption but at the same time notes there's instances where it's essential for law enforcement to access user data in cases of terrorism and/or national threats. More to read here:

    http://recode.net/2015/02/15/white-house-red-chair-obama-meets-swisher/




    As a person whose sworn duty is to uphold and protect the Constitution, he has been doing a lousy job. 2016 can't come fast enough.

    So, who's done a great job on that? (Please don't say Reagan).

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