Civil liberties and privacy activists, as well as 140 tech companies, yesterday urged the White House to pull back efforts to weaken encryption or include law enforcement "backdoors" on technology products.
The effort marked the latest turn of events in a dispute between Silicon Valley firms and the US government, which is seeking ways to access encrypted phones and other devices to root out criminals and terrorists.
In response to pleas from the FBI and National Security Agency to allow the US enforcement and intelligent services access to encrypted devices, those against the latest revelations signed a letter urging the administration to "reject any proposal that US companies deliberately weaken the security of their products."
The letter said: "Strong encryption is the cornerstone of the modern information economy's security.
"Encryption protects billions of people every day against countless threats be they street criminals trying to steal our phones and laptops, computer criminals trying to defraud us, corporate spies trying to obtain our companies' most valuable trade secrets, repressive governments trying to stifle dissent, or foreign intelligence agencies trying to compromise our and our allies' most sensitive national security secrets."
The letter, which was endorsed by Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo, amongst other tech firms, argued that there is no way to enable this kind of access without weakening security.
The letter added: "Whether you call them 'front doors' or 'back doors', introducing intentional vulnerabilities into secure products for the government's use will make those products less secure against other attackers.
"Every computer security expert that has spoken publicly on this issue agrees on this point, including the government's own experts."
Kevin Bankston from the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute said the message is important for the White House to hear as it weighs its response on encryption standards.
He said: "We thought it important to ensure that President Obama heard now a clear and unified message from the Internet community: encryption backdoors are bad for privacy, bad for security, bad for human rights, and bad for business."
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