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Apple, other tech companies ask Obama to reject proposals for software backdoors

In a letter to be delivered to President Barack Obama on Tuesday, Apple is among a group of signatories requesting the White House reject incoming government proposals that would modify current policies to allow law enforcement access to encrypted user data.




As reported by The Washington Post, which gained access to the letter on Monday, Apple joins a cadre of more than 140 tech companies, security experts and interested civil groups concerned with upcoming legislation that could force access to consumer data, even if it is encrypted.

"Strong encryption is the cornerstone of the modern information economy's security," the letter reads. Further, signatories unanimously recommend that government agencies should "fully support and not undermine efforts to create encryption standards."

According to The Post, three signatories were on a five-member presidential review team formed to investigate U.S. technology policy in 2013, just after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden sparked public outrage by leaking information regarding secret government surveillance programs. Among the revelations aired by Snowden was the existence of mass data collection initiatives targeting everything from phone calls to social networks and other high-traffic consumer products.

Law enforcement officials claim technology companies like Apple are making their job increasingly difficult by rolling out opaque encryption techniques that make data and other forms of communication inaccessible. Some agencies are requesting so-called "backdoors" be built into otherwise secure software with the express purpose of accessing data deemed vital to criminal investigations.

With iOS 8, Apple built an encryption system so secure that it is technically incapable of decrypting a user's device even with the appropriate documentation. The lockout method was not well received by officials wanting access to user data, a procedure allowed through proper warrants.

For example, former Deputy Attorney General James Cole said at the time that Apple's iOS encryption poses a hinderance to crime fighting operations and would one day lead to the death of a child. FBI Director James Comey voiced similar concerns, saying iOS data encryption puts consumers "above the law" and Apple is actively advertising that fact.