The Electronic Frontier Foundation, in light of Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 presidential election, called on tech firms to bolster electronic encryption and cybersecurity measures ahead of a Trump presidency. The group fears that Trump may erode civil rights when the administration asks for information on people's race, religion and nationality as the "law and order candidate" takes office.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation worries that a GOP-led White House and Congress could increase electronic surveillance and limit electronic rights as Republicans plan to crack down on potential law breakers. One way to hinder this potential movement, says the EFF, is to increase electronic encryption to prevent intrusions by government entities. Wiping nonessential information and logs on customers is another way to fight privacy violations because the government cannot access information that companies do not keep.
The EFF says Trump's past calls for increased government intrusions means tech companies should brace for better electronic encryption sooner rather than later. For example, Trump supported the FBI's effort to hack the iPhone of the San Bernardino County shooters. Apple resisted the FBI's efforts to hack its own product, but then the FBI gained access to the device through a third party's hack.
Protecting customer data from the government or Trump administration isn't the only electronic encryption issue facing large companies. Cybersecurity issues stemming from hacks and security breaches of retail giants in 2014 and 2015 showed just how vulnerable companies are to malicious attacks. Protecting consumer information while catering to the needs of retailers is a huge concern in terms of safeguarding electronic information.
Electronic encryption techniques walk a fine line between satisfying consumers and vendors who work with the government. Tech firms must show they are willing to back the privacy protections of individuals while asking the federal government for trade agreements that favor the industry. Many tech firms have large contracts with the federal government, and conflicts of interest may arise when it comes to fulfilling contractual obligations and protecting consumer privacy.
The EFF points to historical examples as to why tech firms should be wary of government intrusions into privacy and the government's ability to gather information on millions of people. Experts point to the Holocaust during World War II in Europe wherein high-tech registration efforts in the Netherlands caused Adolf Hitler's troops to find Jews much more easily. In a different scenario, Jews living in large cities in Greece such as Athens, were able to destroy the records of their religious affiliation ahead of the advance of German troops. Destroying the records made it harder for the Third Reich to find Jews in Greece.
By the same measure, the EFF believes tech firms should take concerted steps to eliminate records before the government asks for private information. The lobbying group makes blanket recommendations, but it also targets specific firms, such as Twitter, to encourage them to make end-to-end encryption on messages sent between users. These are just two of the ways the EFF wants to fight for privacy rights in an era of a supposed law-and-order candidate.
Electronic encryption is very sophisticated due to cloud computing, online transactions and billions of messages sent through networks. The EFF warns that if tech firms do not act soon, they may face backlash from consumers if there are breaches in privacy.
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