FBI chief: Terrorists hide behind encrypted communications

The FBI has warned that strong encryption in mobile communications makes it easy for terrorists to communicate without being intercepted.

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey has asked for a “robust debate” on encryption of communications. He says ISIS recruits new American members “through mobile messaging apps that are end-to-end encrypted, communications that may not be intercepted, despite judicial orders under the Fourth Amendment,” Comey said in a blog post on the Lawfare blog.

“There is simply no doubt that bad people can communicate with impunity in a world of universal strong encryption,” he added. “When the government’s ability—with appropriate predication and court oversight—to see an individual’s stuff goes away, it will affect public safety.”

Tech companies and the American government are in a deadlock over the general idea of surveillance. While tech companies believe a person’s data should be kept safe and secure, the government believes having access to such data is a matter of national security.

Both Google and Apple have already upgraded their mobile operating systems to encrypt all data on their devices, which is a move the Department of Justice said could lead to a “death of a child”.

Tech companies have asked President Barack Obama not to pursue any policy or proposal that would weaken encryption or create encryption work-arounds.

The Information Technology Industry Council and Software & Information Industry Association, which represents many large tech companies, including Apple, Google and Facebook, said last month such moves would erode consumers’ trust in the products and services they rely on for protecting their information.