The White House is trying to re-engage Silicon Valley companies, as well as other tech giants like Microsoft and Apple, in the fight against terror organizations online. Government reps will meet with technology executives in California today to discuss partnerships.
The news comes from Reuters and The Guardian, which received a copy of the White House’s agenda for the upcoming meetings. According to the document, the US government will try to enlist major companies, including Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Dropbox, in its fight against ISIS and other threats.
Terrorist organizations have long been using online social networks as recruitment and propaganda tools and the White House wants to see what more companies can do to disrupt these practices. But seeing as neither Microsoft, nor Apple, nor many other companies for that matter of fact, run social networks, there’s little doubt that the government’s attention will also turn towards encryption.
Many companies, including those listed previously, have taken steps to ensure their customers’ privacy and to not appear too chummy with the government after Edward Snowden revealed the NSA’s and other government agencies’ practices. There’s no doubt that this has gone against the government’s wishes, and that the stronger encryption now used online has, at least partially, hampered the NSA, CIA, FBI and other agencies’ abilities to track people.
Indeed much of the White House’s focus may actually be upon the issue of encryption online and on devices. One of the technology executives quoted by The Guardian said this felt like “bait and switch”, referring to the government’s original supposed focus on social networks and online recruitment.
It’ll be interesting to see if the companies respond to the government’s plans and requests. So far, at least publicly, many have been reticent to go along with such plans and indeed some have actively gone against the government’s wishes, like Apple with its strong encryption on the iPhone and Microsoft fighting for users’ privacy outside of the US.
Unfortunately, it’ll likely be a good long while before we find out whether this time things will be different, and how things actually work behind the scenes.