Pro-encryption petition passes 100K signatures, putting pressure on Obama

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The White House has a new reason to takes sides in the emerging crypto war.

A We The People petition calling for President Barack Obama to publicly support strong encryption and to “reject any law, policy, or mandate that would undermine our security” has reached the 100,000-signature threshold.  

The petition also advocates against so-called backdoors, which effectively give law enforcement a way to unlock encrypted communications.

Success of the petition, created a little less than two months ago by leading digital civil-liberties group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, means the White House must issue a response to the petition.

The debate over encryption has pitted law enforcement officials—most notably, FBI Director James Comey—who say encryption allows criminals and terrorists to evade investigations, against privacy advocates and cybersecurity experts, who argue that weakening encryption puts all users at risk of state surveillance and any malicious actor who finds a backdoor.

The Obama administration has skirted publicly affirming their support for encryption on things like mobile devices and computer. Rather, White House officials have shared the administration’s support for encryption by providing anonymous comments to the New York Times

Apple CEO Tim Cook has come out strong in support of strong encryption for users. “You can’t have a back door in the software because you can’t have a back door that’s only for the good guys,” Cook said during the debate at a Wall Street Journal technology conference last week. Apple is on the forefront of user privacy and security, as it encrypts all of their devices running iOS 8 or higher by default.

Multiple organizations have publicly supported the EFF’s petition, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Twitter, Reddit, the Tor Project, and other privacy groups and technology companies.

Photo via Ethan Bloch/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed

William Turton

William Turton

Once named one of Forbes’ 20 Under 20 and hired as a staff writer for the Daily Dot when he was still a senior in high school, William Turton is a rising tech reporter focusing on information security, hacking culture, and politics. Since leaving the Daily Dot in April 2016, his work has appeared on Gizmodo, the Outline, and Vice News Tonight on HBO.