Peter Thiel says a U.S. law enforcement plan to access Americans’ protected communications is a bad idea.
Thiel, founder of big data analytics platform Palantir and vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, told Fox News Sunday he supports the use of encryption to protect U.S. data.
His comments come as government officials including, U.S. Attorney General William Barr, have threatened legislation that would require companies like WhatsApp and Apple to make it possible for the FBI to access encrypted messages. Thiel, a billionaire venture capitalist with a Silicon Valley background, suggested the FBI would not be able to ensure outsiders wouldn’t be able to use the same mechanisms to read communications that now are safe from prying eyes.
“Maybe the FBI gets the information, maybe other people get it,” he told the Sunday morning show “Fox News Futures.” “I don’t trust the FBI to keep it protected inside the FBI…The dogmatic backdoor to encryption that the FBI is pushes is something I would disagree with.”
The remarks came amid a conversation in which Thiel was questioned about an FBI vendor proposal that would enable the bureau to pull data from social media “to proactively identify and reactively monitor threats to the United States and its interests.” An array of U.S. government agencies rely on Thiel’s Palantir to analyze vast amounts of data, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s use of the tool to assist in the deportation of immigrants from the U.S.
Rather than addressing those matters, Thiel said that technology companies, should they abide by the FBI’s long standing request to maintain the ability to decipher messages when met with a legal warrant, it “also can mean that you have less privacy.”
Attorney General Barr in a speech last month said “warrant-proof” encryption was “enabling dangerous criminals to cloak their communications and activities behind an essentially impenetrable digital shield.”
The FBI’s argument that U.S. law enforcement is “going dark,” as the debate had been called, began in earnest in 2015 following a mass shooting in which investigators were unable to access the deceased shooter’s iPhone. When the FBI failed to convince Apple to build a software workaround, the bureau reportedly paid a contractor to find a way to crack the passcode on the device. The FBI has been stymied in using that technique again, as Apple and other tech firms repeatedly have updated their software to outpace the outsiders.