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World Leaders Cool To Turnbull Plea On Data Decryption

Malcolm Turnbull appears to have picked a fight with major Silicon Valley companies, including Apple and Google, by announcing a plan to force such companies to unlock encrypted messages and data found on the phones and other gadgets belong to terrorist suspects.

Turnbull is set to unveil his plan at this week’s meeting of the Group of 20 in Germany – but is likely to find limited enthusiasm for the path he has chosen.

Apple last year balked at demands by the FBI to unlock the iPhone of a suspected terrorism culprit who had jointly killed 14 American people.

Apple CEO Tim Cook argued that (a) it would be near-impossible to do, Apple engineers having designed the system to be unpickable; and (b) that Apple believes it has a near-sacred duty to protect personal information contained in its users’ conversations, photos, calendars, contacts, financial information and/or health data.

Once Apple started dishing up such content – even if it could – its engineers would be besieged by similar requests, many of which would involve curiosity and speculation rather than a pressing public need, Apple argued.

Said Cook: “The Government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers – including tens of millions of American citizens – from sophisticated hackers and cyber-criminals … the same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.”

Google and a number of other US companies endorsed Apple’s attitude – and there is little doubt that they would do the same in reply to any similar demands from the Turnbull Government.

According to an Australian Financial Review report, even Donald Trump would be likely to reject Australian pleas for breaking encryption by US companies.

“Though Trump has presented himself as a tough law-and-order leader and has often been at loggerheads with progressive Silicon Valley, it appears unlikely that the US President will readily embrace Turnbull’s offensive against American tech firms,” quoth the Fin.

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