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GCHQ head calls for cooler heads amid Apple and FBI encryption feud

The head of the UK’s GCHQ security agency has called for a ‘new relationship’ between US tech firms and government agencies as the Apple/FBI battle rumbles on.

As the Feds seek to gain backdoor entry into Apple’s iOS operating system, director Robert Hannigan has called for ‘constructive dialogue’ between law enforcement and the tech sector.

Speaking at event at MIT in Boston (via Guardian), Hannigan said: “We need a new relationship between the tech sector, academia, civil society and government agencies.

“We should be bridging the divide, sharing ideas and building a constructive dialogue in a less highly-charged atmosphere.”

Related: Apple vs FBI: Your questions answered

Hannigan’s latest comments are somewhat of a climbdown from those made when he took the GCHQ job in November 2014.

At the time he warned US tech companies were becoming the “command and control network of choice” for terrorists.

On Monday Hannigan clarified that he was not in favour banning encryption outright, nor was he asking for mandatory backdoors into mobile operating systems.

He added: “I am puzzled by the caricatures in the current debate, where almost every attempt to tackle the misuse of encryption by criminals and terrorists is seen as a ‘backdoor’.

“It is an overused metaphor, or at least mis-applied in many cases, and I think it illustrates the confusion of the ethical debate in what is a highly charged and technically complex area.”

The director also claimed it was possible for improvements to be made without weakening encryption.

Hannigan’s comments come as both Apple and the FBI make their respective cases in US courts.


The FBI has requested access to the iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters, which Apple has strongly resisted.

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