I’m proud to say that Cisco has joined other leading technology companies in an amicus brief arguing that the U.S. Government exceeded existing law in its demand that Apple write software to allow unlocking of the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. The brief argues that a vague, 225-year old statute – the All Writs act – should not be the basis for an open-ended government ability to demand that a company change its products. It also articulates that the U.S. government has specific authority in other areas to compel assistance in critical law enforcement and public safety efforts, and should seek that sort of authority in this situation. We joined the brief to make clear our support for that position.
Our joining this brief is also consistent with our long-standing opposition to “backdoors” and weakening products. Each can and does undermine customer trust in the privacy of their information or security of their information technology. We categorically prohibit backdoors. We refuse to deliberately weaken our products. And, we promote measures that support global trust, transparency, and accountability.
Any government that compels a business to insert backdoors or weaken encryption is demonstrating short-term thinking at best. Such approaches undermine the global internet economy. In this particular case, such a move undermines U.S. companies’ ability to lead today and tomorrow as organizations go digital.
By the same token, absent specific, urgent circumstances, governments “stockpiling” vulnerabilities or tampering with product integrity in the supply chain, undermines trust as well. In this respect, we call on the U.S. Government to implement recommendations in the President’s Intelligence Review Board Report that would directly address some of the mistrust that has undermined the credibility of both government and industry in recent years.
We also applaud House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul and Senator Mark Warner. They have called for a commission to study digital security issues and develop credible, common sense solutions. A forum such as this would allow experts in technology, law, policy, government, academia, and civil society to work together and develop a framework to avoid the sort of impasse we see today.
Finally, we support development of international norms – including treaty provisions in some cases – that will govern access to information across borders and set fair expectations for customers around the world. This will allow Cisco and other technology companies to do what we do best – and do it with trust, transparency, and accountability.