Last Friday, Tim Cook was among a handful of Silicon Valley officials who met with White House officials to discuss the use of technology and social media in fighting terrorism. The Intercept today reports that Tim Cook again took the stance of there being no backdoors in technology to allow access to user data and devices.
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Cook argued during the meeting that it is the responsibility of the White House to come out and say firmly that there should be “no backdoors” to user information. This would mean that the government would have to overrule requests from FBI director James Comey, who believes that prominent tech companies should build a way for law enforcement to access information.
Cook has repeatedly spoken about how there should not be a sacrifice of user privacy to obtain national security, but Attorney General Loretta Lynch responded to Cook’s call for no backdoors with the argument that there should be a balance, decided by the administration, between privacy and national security.
The meeting last Friday consisted of executives from Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Cloudflare, Google, Dropbox, Microsoft, and LinkedIn, as well as White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Loretta Lynch, James Comey, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, NSA Director Michael Rogers, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
President Obama this evening gave his final State of the Union address and while many speculated that encryption and using technology to fight terrorism would be a tentpole of the speech, it was noticeably absent. Obama did mention that technology should be used to fight things like climate change and that computer science should be taught in all schools, but encryption did not come up.
In the past, Obama has been against there being a backdoor to user data, but the ideas of many Washington officials have changed since the attacks on Paris and San Bernardino. Obama has often said that he would rather work with Silicon Valley companies on other ways to counteract terrorism (via Re/code). The President, however left out his stance during his final State of the Union address tonight.
As the United States prepares for the election in November, encryption will continue to be a big topic and Apple will continue to be a company often brought up in encryption related debates. It remains to be seen as to whether Apple and Cook will be able to fight the growing number of people who would prefer backdoor access to user data.