Obama sides with Cameron on cryptography stance

January 19, 2015 | 11:41

Tags: #barack-obama #cryptography #edward-snowden #encryption #gpg #jim-killock #pgp #phil-zimmermann #privacy

Companies: #david-cameron #open-rights-group #usa

Barack Obama, president of the United States of America, has indicated that he largely agrees with UK Prime Minister David Cameron's suggestion that any cryptography which the security services cannot bypass should be outlawed.

Speaking at a press conference alongside Cameron, Obama claimed that 'if we get into a situation in which the technologies do not allow us at all to track somebody we're confident is a terrorist [...] and despite knowing that information, despite having a phone number or a social-media address or email address, that we can't penetrate that, that's a problem.'

'We've been in dialogue with companies and have systematically worked through ways in which we can meet legitimate privacy concerns [while monitoring communications]',' Obama added, while Cameron denied that either of the world leaders was 'trying to enunciate a new doctrine' on surveillance and cryptography in their respective countries.

The press conference comes as Cameron seeks to drum up support for his plans to end privacy in the UK by effectively outlawing any communication system featuring encryption that the national security services cannot bypass. Currently, documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden have suggested that there are types of hardened cryptography - including the open-source GPG, based on Phil Zimmermann's Pretty Good Privacy - which when used properly are immune to attack.

'Cameron’s plans appear dangerous, ill-thought out and scary,' claimed privacy campaigner Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, of the PM's pronouncement. 'Having the power to undermine encryption will have consequences for everyone’s personal security. It could affect not only our personal communications but also the security of sensitive information such as bank records, making us all more vulnerable to criminal attacks.'

'He sounded more like [FBI director and anti-encryption campaigner Jim Comey] than anything else the White House has said in the past couple of months,' the Wall Street Journal has quoted former National Security Agency general counsel Stewart Bakers as saying in response to Obama's press conference.

Thus far, Obama has not announced plans for modified laws to curb the use of hard cryptography in the US.
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