A recent letter cosigned by decision makers at Apple, Google, and others who believe the government is putting American citizens at risk by requiring tech companies to include a “back door for law enforcement” have has been issued to President Obama, and the letter openly urges the President to take immediate action and prevent such a move by Congress before the damage is done.
The Washington Post obtained a copy of the letter as governmental interests, tech leaders and watchdog groups continue to draw battle lines around the protection of seemingly incongruous national security, privacy and technology interests in the wake of Edward Snowden’s mass surveillance whistleblowing attempts.
FBI Director FBI James B. Comey argues locking out law enforcement would put innocent people at risk. Watchdogs claim the right to privacy is too important to overlook and a lack of protection of that right makes our national security a pointless exercise at best because we would no longer be protecting a fundamental element of the American way of life. While Tech companies have stated that a “backdoor for the good guys” would also necessitate creating a vulnerability that could just as easily be exploited by the people the government aims to defend us against.
The letter states in part that “Encryption protects billions of people every day against countless threats—be they street criminals trying to steal our phones and laptops, computer criminals trying to defraud us, corporate spies trying to obtain our companies’ most valuable trade secrets, repressive governments trying to stifle dissent, or foreign intelligence agencies trying to compromise our and our allies’ most sensitive national security secrets… This protection would be undermined by the mandatory insertion of any new vulnerability into encrypted devices and services. Whether you call them ‘front doors’ or ‘back doors,’ introducing intentional vulnerabilities into secure products for the government’s use will make those products less secure against other attackers.”
The letter which was also signed by civil society groups, leviathan companies like Facebook, Cisco, and HP goes on to argue that requiring businesses to shred their own encryption policies would cause those businesses to endure undue financial risk as consumers continue to become increasingly aware of the complicity with the government’s ability to spy on American citizens.
The letter states plainly that “Introducing mandatory vulnerabilities into American products would further push many customers—be they domestic or international, individual or institutional—to turn away from those compromised products and services. Instead, they—and many of the bad actors whose behavior the government is hoping to impact—will simply rely on encrypted offerings from foreign providers, or avail themselves of the wide range of free and open-source encryption products that are easily available online…. The Administration faces a critical choice: will it adopt policies that foster a global digital ecosystem that is more secure, or less?” the letter asks. “That choice may well define the future of the Internet in the 21st century.”
Whether one believes Edward Snowden to be a Saint or a Spy – there can no longer be any doubt that his action have opened up a national dialogue about the importance of privacy and security, as well as the complicated interplay between the factions who are now tasked with finding a way to provide us with both. How these deliberations are ultimately resolved will shape the future of the Internet on a fundamental level, and NationalNet will continue to monitor these discussions on behalf of our fully managed hosting clients who rely on us to provide the highest level of security allowed by law and the greatest degree of privacy possible in the current political climate.