Tech Giants Tell Obama To Resist Calls For Backdoor Access To Encrypted Data

Apple, Google, Yahoo and more than 140 other tech industry companies have written to President Obama urging him to shoot down demands for ‘backdoor’ access to user data on smartphones and other communication devices and platforms, the Washington Post reports.

Update: You can now see the letter here.

The tech industry has increasingly pushed the issue of user privacy since Edward Snowden first leaked the details of NSA spying initiatives back in 2013. However, some agencies of the state are uneasy about the rise of encryption. U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson recently commented that the “inability to access encrypted information poses public safety challenges.” In other words, the inability to access data could prevent defense agencies from actually defending the nation — or so the argument goes.

This letter, which is due to be sent to Obama on Tuesday, counters the claim that encrypting user data is dangerous for the nation.

“Strong encryption is the cornerstone of the modern information economy’s security,” the companies wrote in the letter, which was also signed by technology consultants and rights groups.

It is not just endorsed by tech firms, however. The Post reported that three of the five members of Obama’s committee into technology practices, which was established following the Snowden leaks, signed the letter — which was organized by New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.

“Since last fall, the president has been letting his top law enforcement officials criticize companies for making their devices more secure and letting them suggest that Congress should pass pro-backdoor legislation,” Kevin Bankston, policy director of the institute, told the Post.

“It’s time for Obama to put an end to these dangerous suggestions that we should deliberately weaken the cybersecurity of Americans’ products and services. It’s time for America to lead the world toward a more secure future rather than a digital ecosystem riddled with vulnerabilities of our own making,” Bankston added.

Obama previously told Re/code’s Kara Swisher that he is a bigger advocate of encryption than U.S. law enforcement officials, but he also conceded that it poses issues for defense agencies. That said, the Snowden leaks have made it clear that allowing near-blanket access to user data is a hugely inefficient and seemingly easily abused way of managing the situation. The debate will rage on, but — from a user’s point of view — it is important to see that tech companies are standing up for privacy.