US govt backs down on encryption
White House says it is not seeking legislation to grant law enforcement access to encrypted info
The United States government has changed tack in regards to its stance on accessing encrypted information on personal devices, a White House spokesperson said over the weekend.
Previously, the Obama administration had been entertaining talks around legislation that would grant law enforcement agencies access to encrypted information on devices. However, those talks have received strong push-backs from large technology companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.
However, for the moment, the government appears to have backed down on the security-focused rhetoric.
"We are actively engaged with private companies to ensure they understand the public safety and national security risks that result from malicious actors' use of their encrypted products and services," Reuters quoted White House spokesman Mark Stroh as saying.
"However, the administration is not seeking legislation at this time."
That said, other parts of the government are still stepping up the calls to grant law enforcement agencies access to encrypted information in the name of national security. FBI director James Comey last week warned that the use of encryption was posing "real challenges" to the FBI's ability to fulfil its public safety and security missions.
In response to this rhetoric, which has stepped up over the last couple of years, tech firms like Apple and Google have developed increasingly sophisticated methods of encryption to ensure their users' privacy. Indeed, Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, spent a lot of time before the summer discussing the need for encryption and privacy.
The US government is not alone in wanting access to encrypted information. The UK government, under Prime Minister David Cameron, has made increasingly loud calls for ways around encryption methods. Last week, whistleblower Edward Snowden said in an interview to the BBC that the UK's spy agency was already far ahead of the rest of the world in terms of accessing private information on personal devices.