Tech companies like Apple and Google supply door-to-door encryption services to their customers, allowing consumers to keep their communications secure from hackers. Some national governments take issue with this, citing recent terrorist attacks as an indication that encryption inhibits necessary government surveillance efforts.
Major enemies of encryption include the US and UK government, who have taken issue with Apple multiple times regarding its encryption services. The United States wants Apple and tech companies like it to program in a “backdoor” through which government officials can investigate communications as they see fit.
Tech companies have vehemently resisted these efforts, claiming that any encryption backdoor could be exploited by hackers as well as government officials, and that government officials should have to obtain a warrant to decrypt consumer messages in the first place.
Amidst this controversy, Cook and a delegation of social media and technology leaders met with top national security, law enforcement and White House officials to determine ways that all parties could work together towards the prevention of terrorist attacks and the spread of ISIS. The meeting took place shortly after the White House announced its intention to create a task force dedicated to coordinating a federal response to ISIS propaganda.
The Obama administration is interested in countering lone wolf attacks inspired by ISIS social media propaganda as well as social-media based ISIS recruitment efforts. Attendees included Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, assistant attorney general for national security John Carlin, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Jjornson, NSA Director Michael Rogers, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, and director of national intelligence James Clapper.
Cook apparently maintained his his anti-backdoor stance, claiming that law enforcement officials should actually back “unbreakable encryption” as opposed to encryption built with weaknesses.
Andrew Crocker, staff attorney for the Electric Frontier Foundation, had this to say:
“Apple and Cook have been very strong on this issue… I think it’s heartfelt on Cook’s part- he says he believes privacy is a human right, and Apple has introduced a number of features that support privacy and security.”
Plenty of other tech advocates have raised concerns regarding the government’s intention to create backdoor technology. The 2015 onslaught of cyberattacks have led many to side with Apple in believing that increased encryption capabilities would be more helpful to national security.
“There is no possibility of a controlled government backdoor, as the biggest issue is who gets to decide which government gets access,” claimed Ian Trump, security lead at Logic Now.
Andrea Castillo, the program manager for the Technology Policy Program at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, agrees: “When it comes to encryption, there simply is not a balance between privacy and national security… Weak encryption means weak national security, since antagonistic groups an exploit vulnerabilities and do harm to the U.S.”
Trump believes a better adjustment would be to hold corporations liable for selling their products to terrorist users: “If governments insisted on corporations doing a better job of vetting their customers, then the issue of needing backdoor into encryption becomes mute.”