A group of powerful technology vendors and Internet firms, including Google, Twitter, Uber, Amazon, and Facebook, have sent a letter to Donald Trump’s transition team asking the president-elect to protect the use of strong encryption and consider reforms of the mass surveillance laws.
The letter, written by the Internet Association, includes several pages of policy recommendations for the next administration, and focuses mainly on regulations, copyright issues, and patent reform. But a significant section of the document concerns issues surrounding security and privacy that are integral to the way that the group’s members do business. The association sent the letter Monday to Trump’s transition team, asking the team to consider the issues the group lays out.
In terms of security, the biggest issue raised in the letter is the protection of strong encryption. There have been a number of different challenges to the use and development of encryption in the last couple of years, including most notably the Apple-FBI conflict over an encrypted iPhone used by a terrorist. Some lawmakers and officials, including FBI Director James Comey, have said that the increased use of strong encryption is making life more difficult for law enforcement and have suggested a need for backdoors or key escrow. Security experts have said this would make any user of such systems less safe, and the letter from the Internet Association asks Trump to come out in support of the use of strong encryption.
“Strong encryption is critical to national and individual security.”
“Strong encryption is critical to national and individual security. Encryption is key to national defense, and it also protects our nation’s financial system and critical infrastructure. It also protects users from repressive governments looking to stifle speech and democracy, and it shields users from nefarious actors seeking to steal their sensitive data. Laws that require companies to engineer vulnerabilities into products and services harm personal privacy and endanger national security,” the letter says.
The association also asked Trump to consider reforms to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is used by the NSA for signals intelligence acquisition. That provision has come under scrutiny since Edward Snowden exposed the way the agency uses it several years ago.
“Passage of the USA Freedom Act is a positive step, but it addressed only a limited subset of surveillance concerns. Congress should consider reforms to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Executive Order 12333, which have been used in ways that are inconsistent with the important privacy values reflected in the Constitution and lack due consideration for the privacy interests of non-U.S. persons,” the letter says.
The Obama administration implemented some changes to the FISA process, but privacy advocates have said that more reform is needed to ensure the process is working properly and legally.
Image: Gage Skidmore, CC By-SA 2.0 license.