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Wednesday, 26 October 2016 19:36

Encryption no bar to giving govt data, Apple told Democrats Featured

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A senior Apple official reassured the chairman of the Clinton presidential campaign that the tech giant would co-operate with the US government when it came to handing over "meta-data or any of a number of other very useful categories of data", as "strong encryption does not eliminate Apple's ability to give law enforcement" such data.

Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice-president for environment, policy and social initiatives, sent an email to John Podesta on 20 December 2015, thanking him for "the principled and nuanced stance the Secretary took last night on encryption and the tech sector. Leadership at Apple certainly noticed and I am sure that is true throughout the Valley".

Her comments about handing over data to the government are in marked contrast to the strong pro-customer statement on encryption made by Apple chief executive Tim Cook earlier this year when the FBI demanded that Apple hand over data on an Apple iPhone 5C belonging to one of the two people who participated in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California.

Jackson was referring to comments made by Hillary Clinton during the third debate between candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The email was released by WikiLeaks which has gained access to a trove of correspondence from Podesta's Gmail account.

In that debate, Clinton was asked: "You've talked a lot about bringing tech leaders and government officials together, but Apple CEO Tim Cook said removing encryption tools from our products altogether would only hurt law-abiding citizens who rely on us to protect their data. So would you force him to give law enforcement a key to encrypted technology by making it law?"

Her response was: "I would not want to go to that point. I would hope that, given the extraordinary capacities that the tech community has and the legitimate needs and questions from law enforcement, that there could be a Manhattan-like project, something that would bring the government and the tech communities together to see they're not adversaries, they've got to be partners."

On 2 December 2015, two terrorists shot and killed 14 people and injured 22 others in San Bernardino. Early this year, there was a pitched battle between the FBI and Apple over a demand by the former that data on an iPhone 5C be handed over to law enforcement authorities. The issue went to court and the FBI finally backed down.

Jackson wrote, in what appears to be an effort to stay in the Democrats' good books, "Please know that Apple will continue its work with law enforcement. We share law enforcement's concerns about the threat to citizens and we work closely with authorities to comply with legal requests for data that have helped solve complex crimes.

"Thousands of times every month, we give governments information about Apple customers and devices, in response to warrants and other forms of legal process. We have a team that responds to those requests 24 hours a day. Strong encryption does not eliminate Apple’s ability to give law enforcement meta-data or any of a number of other very useful categories of data."

She concluded: "Tonight, (Apple chief executive) Tim (Cook) and Apple will be featured on '60 Minutes'. We expect encryption and taxes to be covered. In previews, Tim reacts strongly to the EU tax investigation of Apple and other American companies. We will amplify encryption messaging tomorrow when we publicly release our comments on the draft UK Investigatory Powers bill."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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