Tech giants beg Obama to keep encryption strong

Here's something Apple, Microsoft and Google can agree on: the importance of encryption.

The three tech giants are among 140 technology firms and industry experts to call on US President Barack Obama to protect the right to encrypt.

The open letter is in response to "recent statements by some administration officials" who have suggested that US tech firms should not include encryption in their products unless they weaken it to give government access to the data.

"We urge you to reject any proposal that US companies deliberately weaken the security of their products," the letter read. "We request that the White House instead focus on developing policies that will promote rather than undermine the wide adoption of strong encryption technology.

"Such policies will in turn help to promote and protect cybersecurity, economic growth, and human rights, both here and abroad."

The letter comes as officials from the FBI and the NSA push for access to encrypted data, such as that held on smartphones and in messaging apps.

Obama has previously said he supports strong encryption, but is "sympathetic to law enforcement, because I know the kind of pressure they're under to keep us safe".

British Prime Minister David Cameron has also suggested his government isn't a fan of encryption, saying back in January that he may consider legislating to ensure terrorists don't have "safe spaces" to communicate online.

That's been interpreted as a call to degrade encryption, giving security services a back door to access data - a move that's been roundly criticised, with former Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert saying it could be "catastrophic" for British businesses.

Cornerstone of internet technology

The open letter to Obama stressed that strong encryption is "the cornerstone of the modern information economy's security."

Introducing vulnerabilities to encryption would not only leave people at risk to hackers, but would "undermine our economic security".

"US companies are already struggling to maintain international trust in the wake of revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs," the letter added.

"Introducing mandatory vulnerabilities into American products would further push many customers be they domestic or international, individual or institutional to turn away from those compromised products and services."

The full letter can be read here.