The White House is hosting a cyber security summit this Friday at Stanford University, and Apple CEO Tim Cook will be one of the speakers at the event. President Obama's administration is expected to unveil a new executive action detailing ways tech companies can share what it sees as cyber-related threat information with the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center.
Tim Cook to speak at White House cybersecurity summit
The summit, according to The Hill, will bring together government officials, tech industry executives, and academic leaders to discuss ways to foster better security-related collaboration over computer and Internet security-related issues.
Both the FBI and Department of Justice have been calling for back door access into our encrypted data under the pretense that it's critical for national security as well as tracking down criminals. President Obama recently came out in support of the idea, too, citing concerns over terrorist attacks.
Those positions stand at odds with policies Apple, Google, and other tech companies have enacted to better ensure privacy for their customers. Apple, for example, encrypts user's iMessages conversations in such a way that even it can't decipher them, leaving them truly private between participants.
Apple has made it clear it doesn't want a back door into our private data, and it's likely Mr. Cook will reiterate that point on Friday. He'll also defend Apple's position that it can't decrypt private messages even under a court order because it designed a system where it doesn't have decryption keys for our personal data.
Considering the strong stance Mr. Cook and Apple have taken on personal security and privacy, it's a safe bet he'll also make it clear that giving government agencies back door access into our data is akin to having no encryption at all. If government agencies can decrypt our data, then criminals can, too. In essence, a door that's open to the government is open to everyone.
The government's response will likely be to suggest some sort of compromise. While that sounds like a reasonable goal, in this case, a compromise really means giving the government what it wants: a way for law enforcement to decrypt our data. This isn't a sliding scale of access scenario; giving the government any level of back door access to our data exposes it to anyone interested in looking.
Where Friday's summit could be productive is in establishing procedures where companies can safely give information to law enforcement when they're aware of activities that could potentially pose major security threats. If, for example, a company is giving proprietary technology to rogue states, that could be shared with the appropriate authorities in a way that's hidden from the public and foreign governments.
That said, it's likely tech executives, including Mr. Cook, are going to the summit with a different agenda than the government: they want to keep our personal data private and secure instead of opening it up to the government, hackers, and criminals.