President Obama Hints At Asking Silicon Valley To Magically Block Terrorists From Using Tech Products
from the not-good dept
As you probably know, last night President Obama gave a big address from the Oval Office about what he plans to do about ISIS, along with dealing with the threat of lone wolf and other attacks at home. Buried deep within (in fact, I missed it the first time through) was a nod towards the idea of pushing Silicon Valley to magically undermine encryption. Here’s the entirety of what he said on the subject:
I will urge high tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder to use technology to escape from justice.
That seems like a simple sentence, but it’s loaded with meaning, and most of it’s not good. As we’ve noted over and over again, the last refuge of those looking to undermine encryption is to bring up the idea of “if only Silicon Valley techies and law enforcement could get together, surely they could come up with some magic golden key. But that’s clueless, because what they’re asking for is impossible. This isn’t something that’s “difficult” — it’s impossible. You can’t make a backdoored encryption system that doesn’t make everyone vulnerable and less safe.
And, yes, while you can say he doesn’t specifically say “encryption” here, the use of the phrase “technology to escape from justice” clearly implies encryption. Of course, as we’ve noted time and time again, the hand-wringing over encryption is totally overblown. Every time we look at terrorist attacks, they seem to do plenty of planning out in the open. And, even when encryption is used, law enforcement and the intelligence community have admitted that either the people often mess up, making them trackable, or they leave other trails.
Besides, what changes does President Obama think technology needs to stop a husband and wife from plotting at home to shoot up an office holiday party?
The whole thing is ridiculous — and perhaps the only redeeming thing is that he didn’t say he was going to ask Congress for a law on this, but rather just put pressure on US tech companies. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in the past, sometimes that pressure can be intense and almost impossible to refuse. The President’s statement today just undermined a whole bunch of the US tech industry’s claims towards keeping information private. He just handed a gift to foreign companies.