Google’s Schmidt predicts ‘win’ on encryption debate

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt expressed confidence Wednesday that technology companies would win the debate about encryption over the government. 

As companies increase encryption on users’ devices in response to revelations about government surveillance programs, the FBI and others have argued the technology could stifle law enforcement. 

“We don’t know how to build a trap door in these systems, which is only available to the good guys,” Schmidt said Wednesday at the American Enterprise Institute. “If we put a trap door in our system, first we would have to disclose it, because people would find out anyway, and second, some evil person, in addition to the good guys would figure out a way to get in it. And I think the whole trust of this model is really really broken.”

The FBI has pushed back on the moves, saying investigations could be stalled and more suspects could walk free if the encryption becomes the norm. 

“We’ve taken a very tough line in the industry over this issue, and I think we will win this one, at least in America, because the encryption technology is broadly understood [and] the current encryption technology is largely unbreakable,” he said. 

Schmidt said he is sympathetic to the argument that the government needs to see what is going on. But he said he is not sympathetic to the idea that governments can do it without a court order. Schmidt said Google receives thousands of national security requests for information, which he said is manageable. 

“So my answer to the government and the US government, is it’s called a front door,” he said. 

Apple and Google have made encryption standard on new devices. The locks would prevent anyone from accessing information stored on the phone without permission. Google has also encrypted other services, like its email service. Recent reports found Google’s devices must now support encryption but default encryption is not yet mandatory for all devices.

Tags Encryption Eric Schmidt Google

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