Apple, Google Lead Tech Coalition Urging Obama To Denounce Software Backdoors

Apple and Google are part of a coalition consisting of more than 140 tech firms, cryptologists, and civil society groups who have come together to urge President Barack Obama to shut down any government proposals that would require smartphones and other communications to have so-called backdoors for law enforcement to view customer data.

The coalition sent a letter obtained by The Washington Post talking about the importance of "strong encryption." It serves as a counterargument to the recent warnings of senior law enforcement officials who warn that restricting access to data and communications poses a threat to security.


FBI Director James B. Comey and some other high ranking officials find themselves bewildered by announcements made by Apple and Google last year involving smartphone encryption that's so secure they wouldn't be able to comply with government warrants to hand over customer data even if they wanted to.

However, technologists counter that the only way to allow access to encrypted data is by building a separate key to unlock data. Otherwise known as a backdoor, this is essentially a vulnerability that could also allow hackers and foreign governments to gain unauthorized access.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California), who holds a degree in Computer Science, called the use of backdoors in software "technologically stupid." His sentiments were echoed by Richard A. Clarke, former cybersecurity adviser to President George W. Bush, who noted that the government tried and failed to pass similar legislation in the 1990s that would requires phone companies to build backdoors for encrypted voice calls.

"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," Clarke said.