Paris Attacks Spark Another Fight Against Encryption

by Sean Sposito, San Francisco Chronicle

walking smartphone aps illustration

geralt / Pixabay

Pointing to terrorist attacks that killed more than 120 people in Paris, security officials are again pressuring Silicon Valley companies to weaken the ways they protect users’ private communications.

The argument centers on encryption, which services like WhatsApp or Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime use to ensure eavesdroppers can’t listen to private chats between people.

Critics latched onto the method soon after Friday’s attack — with little evidence of the role technology played.

“I think what we’re going to learn is that these guys are communicating via these encrypted apps,” former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morrell said on “Face the Nation” on Sunday

The next morning, current Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan — who recently had his personal e-mail hacked — reportedly said companies’ encryption techniques, coupled with the revelations of mass surveillance released by National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden, have made it “much more challenging” for authorities to find terrorists.

“We have no idea how the terrorists in the Paris bombings and shootings (communicated), but notice that (government officials) already have the solution,” said Eva Galperin, a global policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who works specifically on international security and privacy issues.

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