Two major hi-tech industry groups have written an open letter to president Obama asking the administration to reconsider any policies it may be cooking up to weaken encryption in order to aid law enforcement efforts.
The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), which describes itself as the “voice of the tech sector,” and the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) count some of the most powerful technology companies on the planet as members.
These include Microsoft, Lenovo, Facebook, EMC, Google, Oracle, Sony and Symantec.
The letter explained patiently the importance of strong encryption as an “essential asset of the global digital infrastructure,” engendering consumer trust in the confidentiality of services and transactions.
The letter continued:
“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.”
The letter added that if the US decides to push ahead with such a policy it would “legitimize” similar efforts by other states, threatening global markets and diminishing civil liberties.
The Obama administration has become increasingly vocal and hostile towards strong encryption.
Just last week, FBI assistant director Michael Steinbach called in a House committee hearing for a new law to enable law enforcers to access encrypted comms if they’ve received prior consent from a court.
This follows similar calls in the past from other senior officials including attorney general, Eric Holder, and FBI chief James Comey.
In the UK, prime minister David Cameron was widely criticized for making similar remarks ahead of the last general election.
Now that his Conservative party have won an outright majority in the Commons, commentators believe it will try and reintroduce the hugely controversial ‘Snooper’s Charter’ bill which would, among other things, address the problem of access to encrypted comms.