Regulation

Senators Demand That Big Tech Releases Encrypted Data To Law Enforcement

Senators Battle With Big Tech Over Encryption

U.S. senators went head to head with executives of Apple and Facebook on Tuesday (Dec. 10) over the companies’ decision to use encryption technology, according to a report by Reuters.

The lawmakers warned that both companies should allow for “backdoor” access to law enforcement or they would be forced to regulate the technology.

The senators said child abuse and mass shooting cases were key reasons for the technology to be accessible, and that lack of access has stymied investigations in the past.

“You’re going to find a way to do this or we’re going to go do it for you,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham. “We’re not going to live in a world where a bunch of child abusers have a safe haven to practice their craft. Period. End of discussion.”

Facebook announced end-to-end encryption throughout all of its messaging earlier in 2019, and its WhatsApp service has been encrypted practically since its inception. 

U.S. Attorney General William Barr, as well as authorities in the U.K. and Australia, all called on the social media giant to stop the plan to use encryption unless it gave law enforcement access. 

Facebook has rejected that proposal, and WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart, as well as Messenger chief Stan Chudnovsky, wrote a letter about why they thought it would be a bad idea to allow for law enforcement access.

“The ‘backdoor’ access you are demanding for law enforcement would be a gift to criminals, hackers and repressive regimes,” they said. “That is not something we are prepared to do.”

Apple had to deal with a legal fight in 2016 over access to the phone of the perpetrator of the San Bernardino shootings in California. 

Apple privacy head Erik Neuenschwander said lawmakers should focus on other aspects of the company’s affairs. He did say the company might be open to “on-device scanning,” which would identify illegal content and its originators.

“We don’t have forums for strangers to contact each other … and our business doesn’t have us scanning material of our users to build profiles of them,” said Neuenschwander.

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