After the recent wave of global terrorist attacks, many countries are taking the opportunity to enact new laws for national security. China is among them, and their new anti terrorism law is causing alarm for US companies. A controversial law passed on December 27th requires these companies to provide the Chinese government with encryption keys to sensitive data as part of broad criminal investigations, according to International Business Times. The government says they are concerned about future violence.
In an interview on US television, Apple CEO Tim Cook stated that security and privacy are not at odds with each other. Unfortunately, the Chinese government does not feel the same way. The new law seems to be aimed at end-to-end encryption applications like Apple Messenger. The problem is, Apple does not have the decryption keys for their software, since they are stored on the devices themselves.
There is a delicate balancing act that Apple may face. With many of Apple’s products being made in China, it is possible they could require engineers to come up with a less secure version of their messaging, if the keys can not be provided. Apple has vast amounts of money invested in to the factories there, so that may be their only option. If both sides stick to their principles, there could be a standoff.
Though the government claims this law is for national security, there could be other reasons. This could be a thinly veiled attempt at censorship. Though China is still controlled by the Communist Party, they have become increasingly industrialized and such, westernized. Bringing in outside ideas can often lead to dissension or unrest, and that is something that the government is trying to prevent. Could it be that they fear losing control of their country?
Though national security may be their goal, that could have several meanings. Whether requiring companies turn over encryption keys will actually help them stop terrorism or not, is another question. US companies that provide encrypted products will be watching to see how this new law will be enforced. Until then, all they can do is wait. No matter what the result is, the companies will either comply, or re-evaluate their strategies there. The Chinese government may be concerned about radicalized Muslims like they have stated, but they are not known for their transparency. Who will win this epic battle between privacy and security? You can bet it will not be the Chinese citizens.