Tech companies, including Apple, Google and Facebook, could face enforcement action if they don’t voluntarily provide channels for law enforcement to access encrypted information, a US-led coalition of governments warned.
In a joint statement, representatives of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand said they support personal privacy rights, but noted the proliferation of encryption technology presents challenges in combatting crime and threats to national security.
The memo acknowledged operators, device manufacturers and over-the-top service providers are already subject to regulations which require them to help law enforcement access data, but argued “further assistance is needed” to address encryption-related hurdles. It urged tech companies to build channels for “lawful access” to encrypted products and services offered in the five nations, or face technological, legislative or other action to force access.
The statement comes amid ongoing battles between tech companies and law enforcement over access to encrypted data. In August, Reuters reported the US government took Facebook to court in an attempt to force it allow surveillance of a suspect’s encrypted thread in its Messenger app.
Encryption was also the subject of a high-profile spat between Apple in the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2016. The FBI pressed the tech giant to provide access to the iPhone of a mass shooter. AT&T, Verizon and Google all came out in support of Apple in that case, arguing the creation of backdoor access channels would compromise user security and privacy.
The FBI hired an outside firm to crack the device.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back