Last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris have renewed the clarion call from U.S. officials who continue to push for U.S. government access to encrypted communications and other data.
In an interview with MSNBC on Monday, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Silicon Valley companies, particularly those marketing secure Internet messaging services, should help government agencies protect the homeland by allowing controlled access to encrypted data.
“They have apps to communicate on that cannot be pierced even with a court order, so they have a kind of secret way of being able to conduct operations and operational planning,” Feinstein said of ISIS terrorists.
In October, the Senate passed the controversial Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), co-sponsored by Feinstein. The bill allows companies to legally share customer data with Homeland Security and other government agencies.
As the dominating presences in the mobile arena, Apple and Google have been singled out as part of the “problem,” for providing end-to-end encryption that not even the companies themselves can decrypt.
Feinstein played the “it’s for the children” trump card during the interview:
“I have actually gone to Silicon Valley, I have met with the chief counsels of most of the big companies, I have asked for help and I haven’t gotten any help,” Feinstein said. “I think Silicon Valley has to take a look at their products, because if you create a product that allows evil monsters to communicate in this way, to behead children, to strike innocents, whether it’s at a game in a stadium, in a small restaurant in Paris, take down an airliner, that’s a big problem.”
Other top-ranking U.S. officials, including CIA Director John Brennan, made similar comments, but stopped short of asking for any new laws.
Apple and other tech companies have been vocal opponents of government “backdoors” to encrypted communications, speaking out against the CISA leading up to last month’s vote. The companies argue that providing a backdoor that allows access to their customer’s personal communications and data would also provide access for the bad guys.
Supporters of the CISA have fired back, saying CISA allows providers to share data while still maintaining customer privacy. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, and if passed there, goes to President Obama’s desk for a signature.