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Obama Won't Seek Access to Encrypted User Data

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President Obama hosting a state dinner at the White House for President Xi Jinping of China in September.

The Obama administration has backed down in its bitter dispute with Silicon Valley over the encryption of data on iPhones and other digital devices.

Credit: Zach Gibson/The New York Times

The Obama administration has decided to not compel U.S. technology companies to give law enforcement and intelligence agencies access to user data encrypted on digital devices.

The White House is bowing to experts' argument that doing so would place millions of citizens' information in danger from enemy hackers.

Computer scientist Peter G. Neumann lauds the decision, but warns law enforcement will still exert heavy pressure to allow access. "The [U.S. National Security Agency] is capable of dealing with the cryptography for now, but law enforcement is going to have real difficulty with this," he says.

A study co-authored by Neumann contended installing a back door into encrypted communications would inevitably open up that information to exploitation by Russian and Chinese intelligence agents, cybercriminals, and terrorist organizations; this conclusion is shared by the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy.

President Barack Obama and his aides also are concerned with such a policy serving as a precedent that China and other countries would imitate, requiring U.S. technology companies to permit them the same access, according to officials.

The U.S. National Security Council's Mark Stroh says his agency is collaborating with the private sector "to ensure they understand the public safety and national security risks that result from malicious actors' use of their encrypted products and services."

From The New York Times
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