In a Senate hearing on Tuesday, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pushed the companies to let the police and other authorities access personal data that lies behind encryption on devices and technology platforms. Senators threatened to legislate if the private sector doesn’t offer solutions on its own.
“I am determined to see that there is a way that phones can be unlocked when major crimes are committed,” said Senator
Facebook wrote to U.S. Attorney General
“It is simply impossible to create such a backdoor for one purpose and not expect others to try and open it,” Facebook executives
Big tech companies contend that strong encryption on their devices and services, without a backdoor that could be exploited for bad purposes, is vital for the security of their products.
“Encryption is the underlying technology providing information security in all modern systems,” Erik Neuenschwander, manager of user privacy at Apple, said in prepared testimony. “We do not know of a way to deploy encryption that provides access only for the good guys without making it easier for the bad guys to break in.”
Tech companies and governments have clashed for years over balancing law enforcement access and user privacy, most famously when the U.S. sought access to an iPhone from a terrorist who carried out a deadly shooting spree in San Bernardino, California, in 2015. Apple refused to help, and the FBI eventually was able to
Discussions and debate have continued with little progress. Barr escalated the tension in October when he and officials from the U.K. and Australia
The letter from Cathcart and Chudnovsky, released by Facebook on Tuesday, was a response to Barr’s message. The company wants to encrypt its messaging services as part of a plan that emphasizes direct communication between users instead of public and group postings. The move would make it effectively impossible for Facebook to hand over user messages to law enforcement, or proactively scan for dangerous or illegal activity, the company has said, although it emphasizes it’s working on other ways to combat threats.
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Alistair Barr, Larry Liebert
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