Obama criticizes China’s demands for U.S. tech firms to hand over encryption keys, install backdoors

“President Barack Obama on Monday sharply criticized China’s plans for new rules on U.S. tech companies, urging Beijing to change the policy if it wants to do business with the United States and saying he had raised it with President Xi Jinping,” Jeff Mason reports for Reuters.

“In an interview with Reuters, Obama said he was concerned about Beijing’s plans for a far-reaching counterterrorism law that would require technology firms to hand over encryption keys, the passcodes that help protect data, and install security ‘backdoors’ in their systems to give Chinese authorities surveillance access,” Mason reports. “The laws ‘would essentially force all foreign companies, including U.S. companies, to turn over to the Chinese government mechanisms where they can snoop and keep track of all the users of those services,’ Obama said. ‘As you might imagine tech companies are not going to be willing to do that,’ he said.”

“The implications for Silicon Valley companies, ranging from Microsoft Corp to Apple Inc, have set the stage for yet another confrontation over cybersecurity and technology policy, a major irritant in U.S.-China relations,” Mason reports. “Obama said the rules could also backfire on China. ‘Those kinds of restrictive practices I think would ironically hurt the Chinese economy over the long term because I don’t think there is any U.S. or European firm, any international firm, that could credibly get away with that wholesale turning over of data, personal data, over to a government,’ he said.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Unfortunately, Chinese patent laws (or lack thereof) don’t seem to restrict the wholesale lifting of foreign IP and trade dress (see: Xiaomi). Somehow, that problem should be dealt with as well.

One reason for China’s demands is obvious: The revelations from Edward Snowden. You can’t spy willy nilly for years, to such depths, and on your own supposedly Constitutionally-protected citizens even and not expect other countries to attempt to protect themselves. This is why Apple has instituted such a level of privacy protection where there are no encryption keys to turn over.

Perhaps, if non-Chinese companies are banned from China government use, those companies should *gasp!* consider curtailing Chinese assembly and providing Chinese jobs?

Related hypocrisy:
Obama administration demands master encryption keys from firms in order to conduct electronic surveillance against Internet users – July 24, 2013

15 Comments

    1. Yeah, I don’t get it. His own executive branch has called for the same level of access. While not outright demanding it, making strong statements about national security and “The children” have been used to coerce these companies into providing these back doors. What a farce!

      1. Not to mention the NSA, FBI, and other various U.S. law enforcement agencies who would be “hampered” in their efforts to illegally access your mobile phone.

  1. Without successful State Dept. negotiations with China, this will likely end the sale of most electronics to China.

    The opposite is likely true, that anyone buying Chinese electronics will suspect those devices all have back doors for the Chinese to snoop on equipment worldwide.

    Will Pandora’s box be opened?

  2. Taking jobs away will be the only leverage thats for sure. Of course their market is so great that they may see that as an opportunity for its own companies to exploit the opportunity themselves. Actually restricting foreign penetration of their market is their main aim I would say knowing their own companies can’t compete at that more rewarding end of the market.

  3. Maybe Barry will realize that China’s only demanding what he and his UK equivalent want to demand. If the US and Britain get back doors, then China should too—it’s only fair. And if China can’t have them, nobody else should either … because that kind of access by any government is morally reprehensible.

    1. This whole thing has the potential to turn into a real cluster and potentially tank the global economy. It is time for every company that retains personally identifiable information to publicly stand up and proclaim that they will not give in to any government that demands back doors to their data. And if forced to provide access, each company will cease doing business in the country demanding access. For any one company this is a risky stance to take. But if every major company stands up united against this world governments are more likely to take heed.

      Thank you Apple for taking the lead in this very important fight.

  4. As I recall, both the FBI and the NSA, through various officials, have demanded the same access for US Government agencies as China is demanding.

    It is an age old story. Benjamin Franklin warned: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

  5. Phew, China’s just asking for encryption keys and backdoors, I’m glad they aren’t asking for access to access the torture facilities yet.

    It’s a pretty hypocritical statement considering the encryption keys, backdoors and viruses have been developed and used for spying, sabotage and industrial theft by those who have it but don’t worry, it’s not something that those from the free and civilized world will do. After all there are consequences to flushing away a constitution along with any and all integrity and morality.

    “We have made it very clear to them that this is something they are going to have to change if they are to do business with the United States.” —> Yes, we know who refuses to play on a level playing field.

    The laws “would essentially force all foreign companies, including U.S. companies, to turn over to the Chinese government mechanisms where they can snoop and keep track of all the users of those services,” —> Yes, who needs laws, besides the U.S. wants to keep their monopoly on those services.

    “As you might imagine tech companies are not going to be willing to do that,”—> Which is why the U.S. is doing it without their consent.

    “Those kinds of restrictive practices I think would ironically hurt the Chinese economy over the long term because I don’t think there is any U.S. or European firm, any international firm, that could credibly get away with that wholesale turning over of data, personal data, over to a government,” he said. —> It does more than hurt an economy and believe me when the hurt comes it’s going to make the Guantanamo Bay treatment seem like a vacation.

    Karma is going to be such a bitch, go citizens of the free and civilized world, grab your popcorn and stay tuned for the next episode of the empire crumbling.

  6. Perhaps, if non-Chinese companies are banned from China government use, those companies should *gasp!* consider curtailing Chinese assembly and providing Chinese jobs?

    BRAVO MDN!

    This is also a fascinating confrontation between two countries that don’t trust one another, and yet they both want the same thing: A mechanism for spying on software/hardware users for their own purposes.

    GRAND CONCLUSION: Encrypt everything and never share the private keys. Backdoors should be outlawed.

    Oh and to Chinese citizens: Great government you have there. They don’t trust you. Why do you trust them. – Oh wait! We have the same problem in the USA.

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