Tech giants Apple and Google against allowing law enforcement to access encrypted phone data

Tech giants including Apple, Adobe, Yahoo, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, cryptologists, security experts, trade associations and civil society organizations are against the government proposal aiming to enable the police to view decrypted data of communication devices.

More than 140 tech companies have signed a letter to Obama pleading against the government proposal.

“We urge you to reject any proposal that U.S. companies deliberately weaken the security of their products. We request that the White House instead focus on developing policies that will promote rather than undermine the wide adoption of strong encryption technology. Such policies will in turn help to promote and protect cybersecurity, economic growth, and human rights, both here and abroad,” the letter says.

Technology experts say that in order to allow officials access to people’s communications, a separate key to unlock the data needs to be built. That key is also called a “backdoor” which cyber criminals and foreign governments will see as a vulnerability they could exploit.

“More than undermining every American’s cybersecurity and the nation’s economic security, introducing new vulnerabilities to weaken encrypted products in the U.S. would also undermine human rights and information security around the globe. If American companies maintain the ability to unlock their customers’ data and devices on request, governments other than the United States will demand the same access, and will also be emboldened to demand the same capability from their native companies. The U.S. government, having made the same demands, will have little room to object. The result will be an information environment riddled with vulnerabilities that could be exploited by even the most repressive or dangerous regimes. That’s not a future that the American people or the people of the world deserve,” the letter continues.

The government proposal was initiated by FBI director James Comey who demanded access for user data after Google and Apple announced they were to come up with an unbreakable encryption.

According to him, the FBI and the Department of Justice support the encryption as long as officials can access the communications. He explained that while privacy is important, protecting innocent people is indispensable.

Apparently, even the lawmakers of both sides express skepticism toward the proposal.

Washingtonpost.com also reported the comments of some lawmakers on this controversial issue. Rep. Ted Lieu, for example, a California Democrat holding a computer science degree, said that it’s “technologically stupid” to allow backdoors in software.

According to Ronald L. Rivest, an inventor of the RSA encryption algorithm, in order to allow law enforcement officials to access encrypted data, standards can be weakened.

“[…] you’ve done great damage to our security infrastructure if you do that,” he said.

Although the outcome is still to be revealed, many believe that Obama will opt for the most secure solution.