SXSW

At SXSW, tech giants weigh in on Apple encryption fight 

At SXSW panel, representatives from Facebook, Google and Microsoft weighed in on Apple vs. FBI

Posted March 12th, 2016

Story highlights
  • Three big tech firms speaking at SXSW discuss the Apple encryption fight. 

You can't have a South by Southwest Interactive panel on privacy issues featuring some of the top privacy experts for firms like Google and Facebook without asking the inevitable question about the Apple encryption fight. 

If you've been living under a rock, read this to get caught up on the latest in this story. 

Not surprisingly, the tech firms were pretty pro-Apple, though they acknowledged the difficult questions the debate creates.

Here's what each firm had to say about it: 

Mike Hintze, chief privacy counsel for Microsoft: 

Security trumps. We have to, again, meet the expectations and names of our customers and they are demanding stronger security for our products. It’s not just going to be the good guys who are taking advantage. The bad guys are going to be taking advantage of that work-around. Whether it’s criminals or bad governments around the world. Asking us to build back doors into our products is something that every company on this panel and every other company in the tech industry is going to oppose.

Erin Egan, the chief privacy officer for Facebook: 

We all work with law enforcement when they bring us a data request. We get that, we understand that. But we have responsibility to the people who use our service to protect their safety and security....What we're seeing is people are demanding (security) and what you're also seeing is there are providers around the world who are providing a very secure level of encryption. What we're saying is there is a potential U.S. companies could have a weaker level of encryption versus what international companies are doing....from a competition standpoint, companies should build what people want and people want the highest level of security possible.

Keith Enright, the legal director of privacy for Google:

The context of the Apple case was San Bernadino, a terrible tragedy. Law enforcement is trying to do something important. They are trying to conduct an investigation...We always have to cooperate with that legal process to give appropriate information. That does not require, never has required, that we design vulnerabilities int our (products)." 

We can get lost in the technology but I think what we’re really engineering for is trust. We are trying to design products and services that warrant the trust of our users. One of the challenges we have with the Apple case is that even if you allow that law enforcement in that context and in that case has a legitimate interest...someone might conclude that it would be in the public’s best interest to create a vulnerable version of iOS. The problem is those facts and circumstances won't be contained to this instance....we will come under pressure in other parts of the world to do the same thing. If this goes the wrong way, it is a very, very dangerous precedent that is hard to understand now.


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