FBI boss James Comey believes tech companies offering end-to-end encryption should reconsider their business model, replacing them with encryption techniques that intercept and turnover communications to law enforcement when necessary. End-to-end encryption is state-of-the art in providing secure communications on the internet.
Comey has previously argued that tech companies could come up with a “solution” that allows for government access but doesn’t weaken security. He now says “extensive conversations” with tech companies have persuaded him that it’s not due to a technical issue. “It is a business model question,” he says. “The question we have to ask is: Should they change their business model?”
Some cyber security and privacy experts say the same holes in encryption which allow for authorized interception would also allow unauthorized interception, leading to insufficient security. This has not stopped Comey from calling for an international standard for encryption technologies, as many commonly used and popular encrypted applications are not necessarily U.S. based. Any legal obligations imposed on solely U.S. companies would lead customers to turn to overseas options.
Although not officially calling for legislation to compel companies to stop providing end-to-end encryption, Comey says he would like to see all companies responding to lawful requests for data.
Comey and other government representatives have urged companies like Apple and Google for many months to find a way to provide law enforcement access to decrypted communications whenever there’s a request made through legal channels. Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates has also stated that some sort of legislation or mandate “may ultimately be necessary” to compel companies to comply.
“There are plenty of companies today that provide secure services to their customers and still comply with court orders,” says Comey “There are plenty of folks who make good phones who are able to unlock them in response to a court order. In fact, the makers of phones that today can’t be unlocked, a year ago they could be unlocked.”