Tech industry redoubles efforts to fight US gov't encryption backdoors

Allowing encryption workarounds would give other governments cause to do the same, tech industry groups warned

Apple, Google urge Obama to reject encryption back doors

Apple, Google urge Obama to reject encryption back doors

Groups representing major IT companies have warned U.S. President Barack Obama again not to go through with measures that would undermine encryption technologies. Such policies would undermine privacy and compromise the security of tech products and services, they said.

In a letter sent to Obama Monday, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) and the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) stressed that they are opposed to any policy actions or measures that would undermine encryption.

The industry associations represent many large tech companies including Apple, Google, Facebook, Samsung Electronics, Microsoft and Twitter.

Their call follows a letter Google and Apple sent Obama in May, also urging the President not to allow encryption "back doors".

Both letters are an effort to curb an FBI request to U.S. Congress to mandate encryption workarounds in mobile devices. The law enforcement agency wants such workarounds to use as a tool to prevent serious crimes.

However, according to the groups, mandating weakening of encryption or workarounds 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," they said.

Moreover, should the U.S. allow encryption workarounds, this will send a signal to the rest of the world, legitimizing similar efforts by foreign governments, the groups warned.

The new U.K. government is preparing surveillance laws calling on tech companies to decrypt messages on demand, according to a report by The Telegraph. In January the Prime Minister had suggested an outright ban on the use of encrypted messaging services such as WhatsApp and iMessage, in order to combat terrorism and other crimes.

Meanwhile the European Commission is taking a different path. There are no plans to require back doors in communications encryption in Europe, According to Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip.

The Obama administration is still undecided on the matter. Last week, White House press secretary Josh Earnest, said: "This is a very thorny policy challenge, and maybe even among the most difficult challenges that the President faces," adding that his team is working on it and should manage a way through in a way that balances security with civil liberties and privacy.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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Loek Essers

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