White House summit could create tension with Apple


Matthew Sparkes Deputy Head of Technology

February 12, 2015

Barack Obama is expected to call on technology firms to share more data with law enforcement agencies to prevent cyber-attacks – something which could create tension with companies that have promised to protect their customer’s data from prying eyes

Barack Obama will meet with executives from the world’s largest technology companies and representatives from the Secret Service and FBI this week to discuss how to tackle cyber-crime.

The summit takes place at Stanford University on Friday and will see decision makers from Wall Street, large retailers and the communications industry discuss tactics to tackle cyber-crime.

President Obama has said the event will “make sure that we work through these issues in a public, transparent fashion”.

But government officials will also take the opportunity to ask tech firms to “share more information with the government in an effort to combat future cyber-attacks” according to reports– something likely to cause tension with those such as Apple which have promised never to reveal user’s data.

Messages sent via Apple’s FaceTime and iMessage are encrypted and the company does not hold the private key, meaning that it cannot reveal contents even if served with a warrant.

Dozens of other internet companies also offer encryption, such as Snapchat, WhatsApp and Skype.

Government officials claims that this makes such services a haven for criminals, but privacy advocates claim to simply want the freedom to speak without blanket observation from security services.

The director of the FBI, James Comey, said last year that such end-to-end encryption was depriving intelligence agencies and police of potentially life-saving information .

However, security experts have pointed out that requiring large players to remove encryption will simply cause wrongdoers to look elsewhere for ways to communicate in secret, while also opening up the harmless discussions of hundreds of millions of innocent citizens.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook will speak at the event, and is likely to face questions on the company’s insistence on encryption.

Cook has previously said: “I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.”

That’s a stance which has proved increasingly controversial for Western governments since a rise in terrorist attacks such as the Paris shootings earlier this year.

In the wake of the attack Prime Minister David Cameron pledged that if the Conservatives win the next general election they’ll introduce laws allowing the government to access any encrypted messages. The idea is that terrorists will not be able to use the web to secretly plot attacks.

The proposal was widely criticised as unworkable , because financial systems, online shopping and mobile phone infrastructure all relies on encryption.

It could also place the UK government and Apple head-to-head in a battle over encryption legislation. The same is already happening in the US where the Department of Justice is taking Apple to court in order to force it to remove encryption in certain cases.

This article was written by Matthew Sparkes Deputy Head of Technology from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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