Oi Obama, hands off our encryption!

obama-funny-face-grr-growl-640x397US tech companies have rallied around to ask US President Barrack Obama, in the strongest possible terms, to give up on attempts to weaken sophisticated encryption systems designed to protect consumers’ privacy.

Two industry associations representing major software and hardware companies said: “We are opposed to any policy actions or measures that would undermine encryption as an available and effective tool.”

The Information Technology Industry Council and the Software and Information Industry Association, representing tech giants, including Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft are essentially fighting to keep the government out of smart phones and other digital devices.

Obama administration officials have pushed the companies to find ways to let law enforcement bypass encryption to investigate illegal activities including terrorism threats, but not weaken it in a way that would let criminals and computer hackers penetrate the security wall.

So far no one has actually said how this technology miracle is to be managed, but apparently in the face of all evidence Obama has said “yes we can.”

Last week White House press secretary Josh Earnest dubbed this a “thorny policy challenge.” Particularly as both parties are wanting large sums of money from the tech companies to fund their presidential campaigns.

Earnest said that the companies “would not want to be in a position in which their technology is being deployed to aid and abet somebody who’s planning to carry out an act of violence.”

While this might be true, and if the US government had a policy of targeting the one or two people who might be terrorists there would be no problem. The fact that the government has swept every phone and every device in the country in the random off-chance of picking up terrorists is causing everyone to worry.

Days earlier, the United States enacted legislation that will curtail the government’s ability to scoop up huge volumes of data related to records of Americans’ telephone calls, although few believe that it will stop the US spooks.

The government surveillance was an outgrowth of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and was exposed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The industry groups noted that online commerce has flourished in part because consumers believed their payment information would be secure.

“Consumer trust in digital products and services is an essential component enabling continued economic growth of the online marketplace,” the industry wrote.

“Accordingly, we urge you not to pursue any policy or proposal that would require or encourage companies to weaken these technologies, including the weakening of encryption or creating encryption ‘work-around’.”