US senators threaten Apple with encryption regulations

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Apple takes privacy seriously
Apple isn't budging on its privacy stance.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

U.S. Senators grilled Apple and Facebook execs over encryption practices today, threatening to regulate the technology if the companies don’t take action on their own.

Republicans and Democrats appeared unified in their disdain for end-to-end encryption. The technology, which Apple uses for iCloud and other services, sometimes thwarts law enforcement officials’ investigations into child abuse and mass shootings. Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the harshest critics, demanded that the companies add backdoors to their encryption keys.

“You’re going to find a way to do this or we’re going to go do it for you,” said Graham, according to Reuters. “We’re not going to live in a world where a bunch of child abusers have a safe haven to practice their craft. Period. End of discussion.”

Apple and end-to-end encryption

Apple views privacy as a fundamental human right. The company’s devices and services place a high priority on protecting users’ data. Over the years, the company always has taken a hard stance against lawmakers’ demands to add backdoors to encryption. In 2016, the FBI tried to get a court order for Apple to add backdoors. Apple CEO Tim Cook waged a pro-encryption PR war pretty much throughout all of 2016. Some of his solid points on the importance of protecting encryption obviously fell on deaf ears, though.

Facebook faced calls to add encryption backdoors to its apps in October. U.S. Attorney General William Barr asked the company to not go through with plans to add end-to-end encryption to WhatsApp, which Facebook owns. The company’s simple response probably should have been printed on one of those giant presentation posters Graham loves so much.

“The ‘backdoor’ access you are demanding for law enforcement would be a gift to criminals, hackers and repressive regimes,” wrote WhatsApp head Will Cathcart and Facebook Messenger head Stan Chudnovsky. “That is not something we are prepared to do.”