Apple, others urge Obama to reject any proposal for smartphone backdoors

“Tech behemoths including Apple and Google and leading cryptologists are urging President Obama to reject any government proposal that alters the security of smartphones and other communications devices so that law enforcement can view decrypted data,” Ellen Nakashima reports for The Washington Post. “In a letter to be sent Tuesday and obtained by The Washington Post, a coalition of tech firms, security experts and others appeal to the White House to protect privacy rights as it considers how to address law enforcement’s need to access data that is increasingly encrypted. ‘Strong encryption is the cornerstone of the modern information economy’s security,’ said the letter, signed by more than 140 tech companies, prominent technologists and civil society groups.”

“FBI and Justice Department officials say they support the use of encryption but want a way for officials to get the lawful access they need,” Nakashima reports. “Many technologists say there is no way to do so without building a separate key to unlock the data — often called a ‘backdoor,’ which they say amounts to a vulnerability that can be exploited by hackers and foreign governments.”

“The letter is signed by three of the five members of a presidential review group appointed by Obama in 2013 to assess technology policies in the wake of leaks by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. The signatories urge Obama to follow the group’s unanimous recommendation that the government should ‘fully support and not undermine efforts to create encryption standards’ and not ‘in any way subvert, undermine, weaken or make vulnerable’ commercial software,” Nakashima reports. “Richard A. Clarke, former cyber­security adviser to President George W. Bush and one of three review group members to sign the letter, noted that a similar effort by the government in the 1990s to require phone companies to build a backdoor for encrypted voice calls was rebuffed. ‘If they couldn’t pull it off at the end of the Cold War, they sure as hell aren’t going to pull it off now,’ he said.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Adhere to the U.S. Constitution.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.United States Constitution, Amendment IV

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free. – Ronald Reagan, March 30, 1961

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Related articles:
U.S. appeals court rules NSA bulk collection of phone data illegal – May 7, 2015
In open letter to Obama, Apple, Google, others urge Patriot Act not be renewed – March 26, 2015
Apple, Google, others call for government surveillance reform – December 9, 2013

Apple’s iOS encryption has ‘petrified’ the U.S. administration, governments around the world – March 19, 2015
Obama criticizes China’s demands for U.S. tech firms to hand over encryption keys, install backdoors – March 3, 2015
Apple CEO Tim Cook advocates privacy, says terrorists should be ‘eliminated’ – February 27, 2015
Apple’s Tim Cook warns of ‘dire consequences’ of sacrificing privacy for security – February 13, 2015
DOJ warns Apple: iPhone encryption will lead to a child dying – November 19, 2014
Apple CEO Tim Cook ups privacy to new level, takes direct swipe at Google – September 18, 2014
A message from Tim Cook about Apple’s commitment to your privacy – September 18, 2014
Apple will no longer unlock most iPhones, iPads for police, even with search warrants – September 18, 2014


  1. ‘If they couldn’t pull it off at the end of the Cold War, they sure as hell aren’t going to pull it off now,’ — actually, I think they’re more likely to get it these days.

    1. Forgive the rant or skip it.

      I agree, the level of fear mongering relative to actual threats is higher now than at in any time in history.

      Terrorism is a real but a tiny threat relative to Cold War and a nuclear arsenal that could cause a human extinction event.

      Terrorism is not a large threat compared to global plagues, and while worst case scenarios are bad (as with anything), the most likely scenarios are that cancer, drunk driving, and 1000 other “threats” will EACH kill many times more Americans (or citizens of other peaceful countries) annually than terrorists will harm in a decade.

      On top of that, the best way to minimize terrorism is to minimize our participation in creating wide spread frustration with the US among moderate citizens.

      Extremism on the other side of the world doesn’t naturally involve us unless we attract it. Its origin is local ethnic/religious groups competing with each other brutally, its should be about us at all.

      But we have often made things worse for good people by propping up horrible governments and historically even helping to set up country borders after WWII that don’t reflect the different people in it. From your average suppressed citizens viewpoint, if their torturing, unjust government is propped up by US weapons and dollars we are just as evil. When moderate people get frustrated, extremists find opportunity.

      The middle east is a cowardly politicians dream for creating messes that harm millions and then using those as excuses for taking more power here.

      Boy are there a lot of cowardly politicians these days.

      I am a moderate but I am increasingly frustrated with our government. Maybe we should do something violent as citizens votes no longer hold a candle to the two-party strangle hold … oh wait that is what they are hoping for.

      1. Hmmm, Let me suggest this.

        Apple to sell all government employees iPhone “G” for government which will come with a back door.

        The cost will be 100$ less than regular iPhones.

        After one year, the backdoor password will be released to the people of America so they can listen in on what criminal things their politicians and other government officials (us, state, county, etc) are testing each other.

        If this is not acceptable, then no backdoor should be acceptable. Just saying.

        1. Perhaps restrict the release of the backdoor password to the constituents of the State they represent. This is to emulate the relative number of employees in the security agencies compared to the population of the U.S.

  2. The problem for government is that big business call the shots and pay their salary (via party donations, way more than our taxes) and can be put in/out of power by big business via the media. Politicians don’t like this!

    Access to company secrets and phone data would make big business subject to the government.

    1. Between big government and and greedy business, I would take greedy business any day of the week and twice on Sunday over “big government.

      Business doesn’t care if you buy or don’t buy their product and go off grid, but big government will criminalize you if you try to bypass them. Uh – this is what our forefathers Knew WELL! Ignorance is bliss – while it lasts!

        1. I grew up with 16 tons, and was 8 when TEF recorded in in 1955. My parents and grandparents were “sharecroppers” that had profits taken away. EVEN they knew what Big Government does. You can’t move away from Big Government in the middle of the night unless you cross the border into another country. BTW, TEF was a champion of the little man but a supporter of capitalism and individual freedoms.

          ON the other side of the coin, you need to read a little history of governmental squashing of rights and freedom and taxation circa 1600s and 1700s and the “response” (reason) by the writers of the US of A Constitution.

      1. Occasionalposter1: Don’t underestimate the insanity and deceit of BOTH government AND our growing corporatocracy. It’s not a question of the lesser of two evils. It’s a conflict to bet BOTH OF THEM OUT of our private lives. NEITHER have any rights to our privacy. Nor should we hand our privacy over to either of them.

        As remains the case: We The People are the United States of America. Both government and corporations exist to SERVE We The People. Anything else (and we have plenty of it!) is a corruption of our constitutional law.

    2. Exactly HolyMackerel. We’re in the midst of what has become a corporatocracy, with two massive further waves on the horizon in the form of the TPP and TTIP *secret* trade treaties. Therefore, as you point out, there’s a conflict of interest adding further turbulence to this mess.

  3. Do we really need to feel MORE paranoia about our governments? NO!

    There is a scheme proposed whereby, with an actual/real warrant, a secret third-party-held decryption key could be handed over to police or a security agency. But most people in the computer security field expect that system would be abused. Having special backdoor encryption security keys for individual devices would be a massive PITA. That’s what would be required for this proposed system to actually work at protecting innocent citizens from government intrusion on their privacy.

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