Speaking at the world’s largest computer security event this week, U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said that strong online encryption is hurting law enforcement’s ability to operate.
“Our inability to access encrypted information poses public safety challenges,” he said. “Encryption is making it harder for your government to find criminal activity.”
However, the day after Johnson made his comments, both Facebook and Google came out strongly against the idea of giving the government easy ways around encryption technology. Both companies said that doing so could encroach on the rights of users and put too much power in the hands of law enforcement.
“The trust of the people that use our services is paramount,” Facebook’s director of privacy Erin Egan said at the conference. “Anything antithetical to that we’re not going to be okay with.”
Facebook has taken a strong stand against government interference in its processes since the NSA PRISM scandal several years ago. Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly spoken about the importance of transparency in government when it comes to people’s online civil liberties. While Facebook standing up for the rights of everyday users is commendable, the site’s motives are likely less than charitable. Like Egan said, the foundation of Facebook’s business is its user’s trust. Without that, the entire site could be undermined.