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Paris Attack Sparks Silicon Valley Encryption Debate

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The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have fueled the fire for an ongoing debate about encrypted data and the major Silicon Valley tech companies’ abilities to provide encrypted messaging tools that provide users with tighter security over their personal data.

Now, however, that debate has been brought to the forefront of discussions in Washington, D.C., as White House and congressional officials have called upon tech leaders to discuss the matter, The Wall Street Journal reported. Currently, there’s been a divide about how companies should be able to manage their encryption tools offered to users.

While the tech giants argue that stronger encryption tools better protect their consumers, they have also pushed that opening up encryption standards would give cybercriminals the ability to exploit people and would also pave way for police and the government to act as a “big brother” and spy on those people.

Recently, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC), released a statement that “Weakening security with the aim of advancing security simply does not make sense.” Members of that council include Apple and Microsoft. Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and other tech companies have kept quiet on the debate recently in light of the sensitivities of the attacks.

“We deeply appreciate law enforcement’s and the national security community’s work to protect us, but weakening encryption or creating backdoors to encrypted devices and data for use by the good guys would actually create vulnerabilities to be exploited by the bad guys, which would almost certainly cause serious physical and financial harm across our society and our economy. Weakening security with the aim of advancing security simply does not make sense,” Dean Garfield, CEO of ITIC said in a recent statement.

The battle between Washington officials and Silicon Valley companies date back to issues between Apple and Google, which have created smartphones that are so highly encrypted they cannot be accessed — even by the companies themselves.

“There is a solution out there and there’s a way to get to it but this isn’t the month to be starting down that path,” said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert who worked with the Clinton administration, told Wall Street Journal.

But in the case of protecting its users, tech companies have stressed the need for strong encryption tools. In fact, Apple CEO Tim Cook told WSJ that he didn’t “know a way to protect people without encrypting.”

“You can’t have a backdoor that’s only for the good guys,” he said at a conference last month. The backdoor issue has been at the height of the debate for months. Tech companies have argued that a company’s first responsibility should be to protect its customers’ privacy.

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