Obama's received yet another open letter calling for him to defend encryption
Oh, if open letters could change the world.
Industry groups have sent yet another open letter to President Obama urging him "not to pursue any policy or proposal that would require or encourage companies" to weaken encryption or add backdoors to encrypted products.
The letter was sent by the Information Technology Industry Council and the Software & Information Industry Association earlier this week. Here's how the groups explain their stance on weakening encryption in the (rather short) letter:
We are opposed to any policy actions or measures that would undermine encryption as an available and effective tool. As you know, encryption helps to secure many aspects of our daily lives. Encryption is an essential asset of the global digital infrastructure, enabling security and confidentiality for transactions as well as assurances to individuals that their communications are private and information is protected. For example, the rapid growth in online commerce would not have happened but for consumers’ trust that their payment information is secure. Consumer trust in digital products and services is an essential component enabling continued economic growth of the online marketplace.Note that the argument isn't driven by a desire to preserve the freedom of speech, which a special rapporteur for the United Nations recently said is supported by encrypted software, or concerns about a surveillance state.
Instead, it's meant to appeal to the government's desire to support the tech industry. Surveillance is bad for business -- just ask Verizon, which lost a contract because of its involvement with spy programs -- and the country.
Yet the government only needs to make one argument to rebut those fears: allowing people to encrypt their communications and information allows the terrorists, child porn viewers, and other criminals evade law enforcement.
And the government isn't afraid to make that argument. As I wrote yesterday, after it was revealed that the FBI still hasn't abandoned its efforts to receive access to encrypted information, ostensibly so it can arrest some bad guys:
[Encrypted messaging] apps are said to be a black hole for law enforcement. Many either destroy messages after they’re seen, claim that they can’t decrypt the messages’ contents, or otherwise prevent the FBI and other agencies from snooping on the missives. The FBI wants Congress to force these companies to abandon these practices.
Of course, this isn’t the first we’re hearing of the FBI’s efforts to gain access to encrypted communications. Director James Comey has been outspoken in his frustration with encryption since last September, when he invoked child porn to make it seem like Apple and Google’s encryption efforts are good for criminals. How's an open letter from industry groups most people haven't heard of going to fight calls to take down the so-called Islamic State and child pornographers? Even the almighty dollar can't beat terrorists and perverts in the political arena.
These letters are nice -- ultimately meaningless, but nice -- gestures. That's all.