Obama’s Dangerous Call for Collaboration

President Obama held a much-publicized White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford last Friday, culminating with his signing onstage a new executive order calling for “collaboration” between government and technology companies to fight cyber crime.

Tech executives from Google, Yahoo, and Facebook to their credit declined invitations to attend, while Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage to advocate for privacy rights.

A far cry from days past when President Obama used Silicon Valley as an ATM machine to refill his campaign coffers. Regardless of how much Obama’s now being a lame duck may account for the change, we can but hope this shift in sentiment in the Valley remains permanent.

The audience attending the summit apparently saw no irony in Mr. Obama’s declaration that:

When people go online, they shouldn’t have to forfeit the basic privacy we’re assured as Americans.

A noble sentiment, agreed, but Mr. Obama bears much of the responsibility for this forfeiture himself, having authorized the government programs under which these basic rights are violated—not once, but repeatedly, including annual re-authorizations of the NDAA, and multiple other programs that result in the wholesale capture and indefinite storage of every detail of every innocent American’s life. Every email, phone call, everyone’s location at any given time, every internet transaction, online search, etc.: you name it, Mr. Obama’s administration is purposely depriving every American of privacy rights every minute of every day—with tech and telecom companies duly “collaborating.”

The further irony apparently lost on the president is that these increasing vulnerabilities to hacking about which he professes to care so much are a direct result of government programs carried out under his authority.

As I had earlier detailed:

“for the past decade, NSA has led an aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies,” and “vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable.” Decryption, it turns out, works retroactively — once a system is broken, the agencies can look back in time in their databases and read stuff they could not read before.

In short, NSA actively and purposely sets out to weaken encryption standards by “every means available:”

The fact that large amounts of the cryptographic systems that underpin the entire Internet have been intentionally weakened or broken by the NSA and its allies poses a grave threat to the security of everyone who relies on the Internet—from individuals looking for privacy to institutions and companies relying on cloud computing. Many of these weaknesses can be exploited by anyone who knows about them—not just the NSA.

Mr. Obama’s now disingenuously traveling to the heart of Silicon Valley to pose as a champion for online security and privacy thus deserves nothing but for him to be publicly ridiculed.

Further, his call for technology companies to “collaborate” with government ought only call to mind the experience of victims of previous collaborations:

The call should thus be for competition, not collaboration: Individuals’ privacy will be far more likely and better secured by tech companies competing to provide services and devices that protect our privacy—from government as well as hackers.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Chairman and Chief Executive of the Independent Institute.
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