Tech support, please: FBI wants backdoors to encrypted info; Diane Feinstein wants social networks’ help

We’re at the intersection of tech and policy again, where we have a couple of examples of national leaders urging the tech industry to help the government out in the name of fighting the bad guys.

First, FBI Director James Comey continues his push for tech “backdoors” — a way for the government to get around encryption in order to access user information. He said Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee that increased encryption on communication devices has made his agency’s job more difficult, whether it’s in fighting terrorism or other crimes.

“We cannot break strong encryption,” Comey said, according to NPR. “I think people watch TV and think the bureau can do lots of things. We cannot break strong encryption.”

Comey and other spy and law enforcement types have been speaking out against tech industry moves such as Apple and Google encrypting communications on iPhones and Androids. Tech companies have ramped up their privacy and security efforts in the past couple of years, since the revelations of mass government spying based on the Edward Snowden leaks. One spying program in particular, called Prism, alleged that the NSA had backdoors access to the information of users of Apple, Google, Facebook and others — something the companies deny any knowledge of.

Opponents of baking backdoors into tech say doing so would not only harm privacy, it would also open up the technology to being exploited by others. And where do you draw the line when deciding who to let in?

Apple, Google and others have urged President Obama to support encryption.

Meanwhile, Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., is reportedly sponsoring a bill that would require social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to notify the FBI about online “terrorism activity.”

“The companies do not proactively monitor their sites to identify such content nor do they inform the FBI when they identify or remove their content,” Feinstein said Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to Reuters. “I believe they should.”


Photo: FBI Director James Comey in 2013. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)


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  • Amy Rannells

    Snowden has brought to light important information that deserved to be in the public domain. He recognised the NSA’s surveillance programs for what they are: dangerous, undemocratic and unconstitutional activity. This wholesale invasion of privacy does not contribute to our security, it puts in danger the very liberties we are trying to protect. Does Snowden deserve a statue…

  • Ilya Geller

    I help FBI, whether FBI wants it or not.
    I made SQL, Structured Query Language – obsolete, as the only known before standard. Instead I propose my own and patented standard on Structured Data. (Please browse on my name ‘Ilya Geller’.)

    That means the commercial Internet spying is over:
    – the structured information searches for people itself,
    – the structured information does not need any commercial intermediates (like Google, Bing, Amazon, etc.),
    – the structured information does not need SQL to harvest (from queries) patterns and statistics (on how frequently the queries and patterns are used),
    – the structured information does obtain the patterns and statistics from itself,
    – where the external, from queries, information – on the patterns-statistics – is what all Internet spies (Google, Bing, Amazon, etc) are spying after!

    As the result – after Google, Bing, Amazon, etc. are out of business – nobody will be afraid for his privacy, the encryption of his data loses its sense and FBI can breathe freely.