Divisions are starting to emerge within the Obama administration on the use of encryption on devices. According to media reports, the White House is reluctant to offer public support to a proposed encryption bill. If approved, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) will have no other option other than to cooperate with law enforcement agencies on encryption.
White House Position
Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein are currently sponsoring the bill that seeks to give judges more authority on encryption. If approved, judges would be able to order companies to cooperate with law enforcement agencies when it comes to decrypting data. Having reviewed the bill, the White House is reportedly planning to give the bill minimal public input.
The White House stance does not come as a surprise as the encryption bill is unlikely to sail through in a gridlocked Congress ahead of the presidential elections. Senator Ron Wyden has already vowed to oppose bills seeking to loosen encryption protection. Some intelligence officers have also raised concerns that by making it easy for officers to override encryptions it could create more problems.
In the short term, a standoff is good news for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) and other tech companies at the center of the encryption wars. Giving law enforcement agencies access to tech products continues to elicit concerns, as there are fears that it will end up undermining people’s privacy.
Calls for Congressional Intervention
Last month, the Department of Justice dropped legal action against Apple saying it had found a way of hacking the iPhones in question. The fact that the government has other ways of getting information could bring an end to the encryption wars.
Apple is currently lobbying Congress to come up with new ways of addressing criminals and terrorists who use encryption to avoid surveillance. Amidst the lobbying, President Barack Obama has asked Congress not to make a decision that would be sloppy and rushed.
Tech companies continue to step up their efforts on encryption even as lawmakers try to come up with a solution of their own. WhatsApp has already implemented a new system that it says bars it from accessing messages sent across the network. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has also said it is working on a new set of measures that would make its devices unbreakable.