Apple, Google, Facebook, and a number of other giants in the tech industry have written President Obama a letter urging him to not pursue policies that would weaken encryption technologies.
The letter, which addresses ongoing concerns between national security and privacy, in part warns of the security dangers of using national legislation to undermine encryption standards.
“[W]e 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,'” the letter reads. “We appreciate that, where appropriate, law enforcement has the legitimate need for certain information to combat crime and threats. However, mandating the weakening of encryption or encryption ‘work-arounds’ is not the way to address this need. Doing so would compromise the security of ICT products and services, rendering them more vulnerable to attacks and would erode consumers’ trust in the products and services they rely on for protecting their information.
Two technology industry pressure groups have cosigned the letter: the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) and the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA).
Between them, the two groups count some of the largest technology and finance companies as members, which include Intel, Microsoft, Bloomberg, JPMorgan Chase, Twitter, Goldman Sachs, and hundreds of others.
According to Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, the letter raises the question of to what extent the U.S. government should be able to access people’s private information.
There is no easy question to this debate. On the one hand, the U.S. government recently enacted legislation that would curtail somewhat the surveillance powers of the National Security Agency. But at the same time, Washington is being battered by hacks, with a recent breach at the Office of Personnel Management having compromised as many as 4 million federal employees’ information.
Complicating this matter even further is a recent ITIF report that explains that federal surveillance programs might end up costing the U.S. government as much as $35 million by next year.
The companies expressed an interest in working with Obama to come up with a solution that would balance both the need to protect user privacy as well as the interests of national security community.