Apple Inc. and Google maybe able to veil the data of their customers for now, but they may not be able hide the data from the U.S. Senate. This was the implication from Sen. John McCain, who on Thursday suggested that Apple CEO – Tim Cook – and Google executives could be dragged before the Senate Armed Services Committee by subpoena to face questioning over encryption of newer smartphone systems, claims the U.S. Naval Institute News.
McCain pushing Google, Apple on encryption standards
As per the news site, Cook had been invited to attend the Thursday hearing, but snubbed the committee. McCain reportedly said that this is unacceptable, and warned that the committee has subpoena power. The Naval Institute News reported that the Senator’s warning applied to executives from the search giant and Apple Inc. .
McCain indicated at the hearing that he was leaning towards passing legislation instead of establishing a commission to study the issue. As per the news site, the proposal in the Senate is to have the commission make a recommendation back to the administration and the Congress within a year or 18 months.
There is an urgency to find a solution to this matter of protecting privacy while (at the same time) not closing out police, intelligence agencies, and prosecutors from pursuing terrorists and criminals lawfully, said the Arizona Republican, who chaired the panel.
Reaching an agreement on this matter is something that cannot take forever, noted Sen. Jack Reed, (D-R.I.) and ranking member.
How it all started?
After Apple refused to design a backdoor into an encrypted iPhone used by a criminal who shot 14 people in a December terrorist attack in San Bernardino, encryption of mobile phone systems has become a flashpoint between the U.S. government and the tech industry.
At the South By Southwest conference in March, President Barack Obama said that an “absolutist stance” on encryption was wrong. Obama said the question they now have to ask is “if technologically it is possible to make an impenetrable device or system where the encryption is so strong that there’s no key, there’s no door at all, then how do they disrupt a terrorist plot? How do they apprehend the child pornographer?”
The comments of the President followed a statement issued by Cook a month before. Cook said people use (smartphones) to store an unbelievable amount of personal information, from the private conversations to the music, the notes, the photos, the calendars and contacts, as well as, the financial information and health data.
Cook added that all that information needs to be protected from criminals and hackers who want to access it, steal it and use it without the user’s permission or knowledge. “Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk,” Apple Inc. CEO said.