Tech Giants Increase Encryption amidst Apple’s Legal Fight

by Matt Klassen on March 15, 2016

encryption1In a sign of solidarity with Apple and as a preventive measure against the increased legal challenges destined to come, Silicon Valley heavyweights Google, Facebook, and Snapchat are working to further secure their own products by enhancing their own encryption protocols.

To that end, Facebook has announced its plans to add end-to-end encryption to all communication through its popular WhatsApp subsidiary app, while Google is looking to expand and develop an existing encrypted email skunk works program its been quietly exploring, and Snapchat is reportedly also working on securing its messenger service.

In fact, as the government leads an all-out war against Apple to prevent communications technology from “going dark”—that is, having communications become completely inaccessible by government or law enforcement—it seems that such legal efforts have provided the impetus for non-traditional digital communication providers to bolster their own encryption standards, meaning that the fight against unbreakable encryption will only get more difficult, regardless of how the legal row with Apple turns out.

As it stands, Apple is not the only tech company under pressure to loosen its encryption standards, as Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp is likely next on the docket for the Department of Justice. The popular messaging app currently finds itself at the heart of a wire-tapping controversy, where legally warranted wire-taps cannot be executed on real-time WhatsApp communication because of end-to-end encryption on text messages, which the company is now expanding to include voice communication as well.

Simply put, the traditional ways of gathering intelligence on criminals through eavesdropping on their communication is quickly becoming unavailable, and instead of finding new ways to fight crime in the 21st century, government and law enforcement agencies are hoping to inhibit the development of encryption enough that the old methods remain effective.

The ironic thing about the U.S. government efforts to create hostility towards mobile encryption is that it won’t stop encryption; in fact it’ll just make things worse. Not only will companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook enhance their own security protocols, but as more and more encryption legislation is levied towards these companies, the greater the likelihood these companies will simply move farther and farther out of the grasp of American authorities (I hear Switzerland is nice this time of year).

Granted these new encryption projects were already in the works before Apple was ordered by a California court to redesign its iOS to include encryption backdoors for law enforcement, an order the Cupertino company has vehemently opposed, but its clear that the fight over encryption is just beginning, as each side entrenches itself for a prolonged war of attrition.

But given that the American public are divided over this issue, we truly have to ask ourselves, just how important is our privacy? Is it the most important thing, above all else, or is it something that needs to exist in a different form alongside the need for preserving national security?

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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