Are Silicon Valley Tech Firms Like Google And Facebook Conceding On Encryption? What Hillary 'Heard' Suggests Yes
A little over a week ago, officials from the Obama administration met with some of the biggest names in tech, including senior executives from Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo. Administration officials in attendance included Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, National Intelligence Director James Clapper and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.
Although the meeting was primarily focused on “[Cyber] efforts to counter radicalization” and to “Make it harder for terrorists to use the Internet” to coordinate attacks, the controversial topic of device encryption was also on the docket, which was mandated by Comey (otherwise, he wasn’t going to be in attendance according to The Washington Post).
On the topic of encryption, Apple has been tech’s most vocal supporter and has fought against ANY efforts to weaken device encryption to appease government entities and law enforcement (both at home and abroad). Apple has come under fire not only from Obama officials like Comey, but also Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who said that Apple CEO Tim Cook has “omitted critical facts” regarding the topic of data encryption.
Cotton went on to state, “If we apply a different legal standard to companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook, we can expect them to become the preferred messaging services of child pornographers, drug traffickers, and terrorists alike--which neither these companies nor law enforcement want.”
The latest person to add their two cents into the whole encryption debate is none other than Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. At last night’s Democratic debate, Clinton seemed to suggest that not all in Silicon Valley are as adamant about putting up a force field to keep law enforcement from prying into consumer devices.
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell told Clinton that, “The leaders from the intelligence community went to Silicon Valley and were flatly turned down. They got nowhere.” Clinton was quick to respond, however, answering back quickly with a sly smile and her ever present nodding, “That’s not what I heard, let me leave it at that.”
Are tech companies in Silicon Valley bending to pressure from Washington to play nice when it comes to the government, law enforcement and encryption? We have the feeling that such compromises on encryption were a non-starter for Apple, but it’s possible that companies like Facebook and Google would be more open to such talks.
With that being said, this isn’t the first time that Clinton has offered up an opinion on the encryption debate. During the last Democratic debate in late December, Clinton said, "It doesn't do anybody any good if terrorists can move toward encrypted communication that no law enforcement agency can break into.
"I just think there's got to be a way, and I would hope our tech companies would work with government to figure it out… maybe the back door is the wrong door?"
She went on to add that the United States needs a “Manhattan-like project” to break down encryption.