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article imageObama urged to support encryption by Apple, Google & Microsoft

By James Walker     May 20, 2015 in Technology
The largest and most influential technology companies including giants Apple, Google and Microsoft have formed a coalition to deliver a letter to President Obama, urging him to reject any proposal to deliberately weaken the security of smartphones.
The letter, obtained by the Washington Post and sent to the Obama Administration yesterday, has heated the contest between law enforcement and the technology sector in the U.S. Technology companies have been asked to deliberately weaken the security of their devices, something they are adamant they will not do.
The FBI has consistently argued that new, super-strength encryption techniques available on modern smartphones have made it harder for them to track suspects. It has called on the technology companies to build "backdoors" into their products that would allow law enforcement to gain access as required.
Senior law enforcement officials have called new forms of encryption available on Apple iOS8 and Google Android 5.0 devices a "threat to public security" because there is no way for either the device manufacturer or law enforcement to decrypt the data on the device, even if the FBI presents a search warrant. The FBI has said it supports the use of encryption but that it requires a way to gain access.
Many security professionals have said there is no way to create what law enforcement wants though. Such a "backdoor" would require two keys to unlocking the data, one for the user and one for the FBI. This would create a vulnerability that could be exploited by hackers.
To many consumers, the FBI's request may seem contradictory to safe computer usage. There is no doubt law enforcement is seeking to force technology companies into deliberately making their devices less secure, undoing all of the good work in the study of encryption during the past few years.
The letter to the White House has been signed by over 140 technology companies, civil society groups and security professionals. It urges President Obama to reject any proposal by Congress that would alter smartphone software specifically so that law enforcement could decrypt data on devices.
The Guardian reports the letter says that "strong encryption is the cornerstone of the modern information economy's security" and tells the US government that it should "fully support and not undermine efforts to create encryption standards" without any attempt to "subvert, undermine, weaken or make vulnerable" currently available encryption software.
The White House is expected to reveal its official position on the matter later this summer. With strong arguments and valid reasoning from both sides, the Obama Administration has to choose between lowering the privacy of ordinary users or potentially endangering the public by allowing criminals to keep their secrets hidden from even the most powerful law enforcement bodies.
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