President Obama Urged to Back Strong Data Encryption

A coalition of nearly 150 privacy and human rights organizations, technology companies and trade associations, and individual security and policy experts, joined TCP in calling on President Obama to defend Americans’ right to use strong encryption to protect their data by resisting efforts within his administration to require U.S. companies to deliberately weaken the security of their products.

In a letter delivered to the White House on May 19, the group wrote that “encryption protects billions of people every day against countless threats—be they street criminals trying to steal our phones and laptops, computer criminals trying to defraud us, corporate spies trying to obtain our companies’ most valuable trade secrets, repressive governments trying to stifle dissent, or foreign intelligence agencies trying to compromise our and our allies’ most sensitive national security secrets.” Weakening encryption would also drive customers away from American companies forced to build vulnerabilities into their products, the letter said.

The coalition noted that the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies unanimously recommended in its 2013 report that the government should increase the use of strong encryption “to better protect data in transit, at rest, in the cloud, and in other storage,” and should encourage U.S. businesses to do the same.

Last year, FBI Director James Comey expressed concern that law enforcement was “going dark” as more and more companies began building strong encryption into their product. However, technology experts say it is impossible to build in access for law enforcement without also creating vulnerabilities for hackers and other bad actors.

Companies signing the letter included Apple, Cisco Systems, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo. Advocacy organizations from across the ideological spectrum also joined in.

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