The Obama Administration is being warned by top US tech companies against imposing new policies, which they claim would weaken the highly sophisticated encryption systems that have been created for protecting consumer privacy. Two industry associations that represent major hardware and software companies wrote a strongly worded letter to the President Barrack Obama on Monday in which they stated that they are against any measures and policies that would undermine the effectiveness and availability of encryption. The Software and Information Industry Association and the Information Technology Industry Council represent tech giants such as the likes of Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and IBM.
They have just fired the latest shot in what could be a long battle over government access into digital devices such as smartphones. The companies have been urged by the Obama administration officials to find ways that would enable law enforcement to avoid encryption for investigating illegal activities like terrorism threats, but ensure that they aren’t weakened in a way that would let computer hackers and criminals get past the security wall. However, up till now, specific legislative or regulatory steps have been spelled out by the White House for seeking their objective. Last week, Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary said that this was a ‘thorny challenge’ that had the president’s attention.
Earnest said that they were appreciative of the efforts made by tech companies for protecting civil liberties of Americans, but he said that the companies wouldn’t want to help those who are planning to commit acts of violence. The industry letter wasn’t just sent to the President, but was also sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, FBI Director James Comey and other Cabinet Heads. A few days earlier, such legislation had been enacted in the United States, which will put a stop to the government’s ability of scooping up large quantities of data that’s related to the telephone calls made by Americans.
It was only after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States that the idea of government surveillance had taken root. This whole strategy had been exposed by Edward Snowden, a former contractor of the National Security Agency. It was noted by the industry groups the primary reason why online commerce has become so popular is because people are assured that their payment information will remain secure at all costs. The industry letter said that it was essential for customers to keep on trusting digital services and products because this would enable the growth of the online marketplace, thereby benefitting the economy.
Therefore, the technology companies don’t want the government to pursue any proposal or policy that would encourage or require firms to weaken their protection systems or technologies such as encryption. They also expressed that companies don’t want to create encryption workarounds because this would weaken their security and make information of customers vulnerable. This could be a major turn off and would make people wary of shopping online or trusting digital devices, which can be disastrous for the tech industry.