The White House will respond to a call for strong encryption protections after a petition organized by activists received more than 100,000 signatures. The petition asks that the Obama administration endorse support for privacy and "[r]eject any law, policy, or mandate that would undermine our security."
The petition, started by Access Now and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was based on the White House's We The People platform. Today, the petition reached its goal of 100,000 signatures in 30 days, the threshold for a direct response from the White House. (It's unclear when, exactly, that response will be made.)
The statement from the administration will come at a contentious moment in the political battle over cryptography. Law enforcement officials have been lobbying for "backdoor" access to tech companies' products, with FBI director James Comey suggesting that encryption has become an unnecessary hurdle to law enforcement. But privacy activists argue that adding such systems necessarily makes it more likely that criminal hackers will break in.
President Obama, when speaking on the subject, has suggested that he agrees with law enforcement agencies. In January, he reportedly said that default encryption could hinder police investigations. "If we find evidence of a terrorist plot … and despite having a phone number, despite having a social media address or email address, we can’t penetrate that, that’s a problem," he said.