Nearly 200 Internet and digital rights experts, companies and organizations are collectively calling on the Obama administration and other world leaders to oppose any efforts to create "back doors" to encryption.
"We urge you to protect the security of your citizens, your economy, and your government by supporting the development and use of secure communications tools and technologies, rejecting policies that would prevent or undermine the use of strong encryption, and urging other leaders to do the same," they said in an open letter made public on Monday.
"Encryption tools, technologies, and services are essential to protect against harm and to shield our digital infrastructure and personal communications from unauthorized access."
The letter was organized by Access Now, a digital rights group with offices in the U.S. and several other countries. Signees are from more than 40 countries and include: former CIA analyst John Kiriakou; David Kaye, U.N. Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression; Iceland parliament member Birgitta Jónsdóttir; the American Civil Liberties Union; Amnesty International; and Human Rights Watch.
Nathan White, senior legislative manager at Access Now, said a copy of the letter has been delivered to Obama administration officials. While White House officials have said they are not seeking a "back door" to encrypted communications, they haven't issued a clear policy supporting strong encryption, White said. That has led other government agencies and foreign governments — the U.K., for instance — to feel free to press ahead with legislation that would weaken encryption, he said.
"The White House needs to clarify what its policy is, because right now the lack of a policy is indicating others are able to take the lead," White said.
On Friday, top administration security officials met with the leaders of major tech companies including Apple, Google and Facebook to discuss ways to prevent terrorists from using encryption, social media and other technologies to communicate.
"Given the way that technology works these days, there surely are ways that we can disrupt paths to radicalization, to identify recruitment patterns, and to provide metrics that allow us to measure the success of our counter-radicalization efforts," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said ahead of the meeting.