from the surprise-surprise dept.
The New York Times reports that President Obama met yesterday with the nation’s top tech executives and company officials on a host of cybersecurity issues and the threats posed by increasingly sophisticated hackers amid a deepening estrangement between Silicon Valley and the government. “What has struck me is the enormous degree of hostility between Silicon Valley and the government,” says Herb Lin. “The relationship has been poisoned, and it’s not going to recover anytime soon.”
American firms are increasingly concerned about international competitiveness, and that means making a very public show of their efforts to defeat American intelligence-gathering by installing newer, harder-to-break encryption systems and demonstrating their distance from the United States government. “In some cases that is driving them to resistance to Washington,” says Obama’s cybersecurity coordinator, Michael Daniel. “But it’s not that simple. In other cases, with what’s going on in China,” where Beijing is insisting that companies turn over the software that is their lifeblood, “they are very interested in getting Washington’s help.”
Silicon Valley execs have also been fuming quietly over the government’s use of zero-day flaws. “The government is realizing they can’t just blow into town and let bygones be bygones,” says Eric Grosse, Google’s vice president of security and privacy. “Our business depends on trust. If you lose it, it takes years to regain.”
Top law enforcement officials and Silicon Valley leaders, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, met on Friday to discuss topics related to support for terrorism on social media, as well as encryption:
Media were not invited to the Silicon Valley meeting. NPR talked with spokespeople from several companies who were attending, and got a copy of the email invite. It's a powerhouse list: White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey and National Intelligence Director James Clapper.
Apple CEO Tim Cook was there. Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo were among the other companies that confirmed attendance.
The word "encryption" is mentioned in the invite. But companies who'd be very relevant to that conversation, like Cisco, were not invited. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said encryption was likely to come up at the meeting, but he described it as a "thornier" issue.
[...] A spokesperson from one company at the meeting, who didn't want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issues involved, said it's almost as if the administration wants a Madison Avenue ad campaign, only coming from tech geeks. Another criticized the event as a "bait and switch." Companies were told, more or less: "Hey, the government wants to brainstorm with the very best engineers about how technology can help fight terrorism," the second source said. It was similar in tone to the White House's call for tech support after the massive failure of Healthcare.gov.
But as the planning for Friday's meeting evolved, so did the tone. And in the 11th hour, companies fought to bring their lawyers, because it's clearly not just a technical conversation.
[More After the Break]