Encryption Summit: privacy still trumps law enforcement, national security

The slayings in San Bernadino offered more proof that violent terrorists are among us and waiting to strike.  Seeking clues and collaborators law enforcement asked a federal court to force Apple to provide access to the dead suspects' encrypted phone data.

Apple fought back claiming surrender of the so called "back door" would the threaten the privacy of millions.

"What a lot of people took from the San Bernadino case and the FBI's actions there is that the government will stop at nothing to get access to data and will trample all sorts of reasonable arguments reasonable precautions in order to get there," said Van Linberg of data storage firm RackSpace.

Lindberg was of several industry and academic experts gathered by Congressmen Ted Poe and Pete Olson for a summit at Rice's Baker Institute on balancing privacy and law enforcement needs in an era of encryption.

The panel's unanimous finding -in this country privacy rights trump the often compelling demands of national and local security.

"Without a warrant from a court that information should be held secret because the government doesn't have the authority under our constitution to just go grab it," said Poe.

"I think that when we provide perception to the public that we have some secret, back door kind of way to do things that trust is eroded," added Ron Hickman, Harris County Sheriff.

But the human price of that privacy could be high if it cripples counter terrorism, prompting an urgent call for private-public cooperation within the constitution.

"The terrorism threats, the cybersecurity threats are real. The technology industry and government need to be able to work together and we need to be able to show that the right oversight and controls are there over what the government does so that people can have trust and confidence in the way that they are being protected," said David Hoffman, Chief Privacy Officer at Intel Corporation.

Poe says the Electronic Communication Privacy Act was passed 20 years ago long before innovations like cloud storage and wide scale encryption. He believes it's time for Congress to overhaul the law.

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