Tech group rejects push to let feds into encrypted data

Tech group rejects push to let feds into encrypted data

A leading U.S. technology industry group is rejecting calls for companies to give government guaranteed access to encrypted data in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks in Paris.

In its first comments since the attacks, which killed at least 129 people and wounded hundreds more, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) argued that ensuring access to encrypted devices would be ruinous for global security.

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“We deeply appreciate law enforcement's and the national security community’s work to protect us,” said ITI CEO Dean Garfield in a statement. “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.”

Since last Friday’s terrorist assault, the tech community has been under renewed pressure to give the government access to encrypted data about suspects. ITI represents dozens of major tech sector players, including Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Law enforcement officials and some lawmakers have argued that tech firms’ popular encrypted messaging platforms, like Apple’s iMessage, are forcing investigators to miss vital clues.

Officials and policymakers said this week that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) members behind the deadly plot likely used some type of encrypted communication channel to help plan their assault, although no direct evidence has been provided to back up these claims.

A phone discovered near the site of one of the attacks and thought to be owned by one of the suspects contained an unencrypted text message about the plans, according to French media reports.

Still, the attacks have given renewed life to what, in recent months, had become an increasingly unpopular argument: Government investigators need a way to crack anyone’s encryption during criminal investigations.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle this week directly addressed tech companies, calling on them to work more closely with law enforcement.

“Let me just tell you something, there are things that are more important than the profitability of a private company,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinRepublicans seek to lower odds of a shutdown No. 2 Senate Democrat opposes Trump's Supreme Court pick The Hill’s Whip List: 30 Dems are against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee MORE (D-Ill.). “I think security of the United States is.”

Senate Armed Forces Committee Chairman John McCainJohn McCainSenate braces for fallout over Supreme Court fight Republicans seek to lower odds of a shutdown Nunes endures another rough day MORE (R-Ariz.) even vowed to issue legislation that could force companies to comply with such government requests.

“We're going to have hearings on it and we're going to have legislation,” he told reporters, calling the status quo “unacceptable.”

In his statement, Garfield emphasized the security benefits of unbreakable encryption.

“Encryption is a security tool we rely on every day to stop criminals from draining our bank accounts, to shield our cars and airplanes from being taken over by malicious hacks, and to otherwise preserve our security and safety,” he said.

Congressional efforts to inject encryption “backdoors” would be counterproductive, Garfield added.

“Weakening security with the aim of advancing security simply does not make sense," he said.