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Microsoft CEO says encryption backdoors are a “terrible idea”

While Apple is ready for a new encryption fight, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella offers mixed messages about the encryption request. At a Monday meeting with reporters in New York, Nadella reiterated the company’s opposition to encryption back doors, but expressed provisional support for future legal and technical solutions.

“I think back doors are a terrible idea, that’s not the way to do this,” Nadella said. “We have always said that we care about these two things: privacy and public security. We need a legal and technical solution in our democracy to have both priorities.”

In this sense, Nadella has expressed support for major escrow systems, versions of which have been proposed by researchers in the past.

Apple’s device encryption systems first became a point of controversy after a shooting in San Bernardino in 2016, which led to a heated legal attempt to force Apple to unlock the phone. That fight eventually ended in a stalemate, but many have seen the recent shooting at a naval base in Pensacola as a potential place to resume the fight. The shooting was perpetrated by a Saudi citizen following flight training with the US Navy, and has already been designated by the FBI as a terrorist act and has resulted in 21 other Saudi trainees being deregistered from the program. Two phones linked to the attacker still fall under Apple’s device encryption and remain inaccessible to investigators.

But Nadella simply stopped saying that under such circumstances companies would never be able to provide data, or that Apple should not offer a jailbroken iOS adjustment under those circumstances. “We cannot take hard positions on all sides … [but if they’re] I ask for a back door, I will say no. “Nadella continued,” I hope that in our democracy these are the things that come to legislative solutions. “

That is a significantly milder tone than Microsoft took during the San Bernardino case in 2016. At the time, Microsoft expressed “sincere” support for Apple’s position in the case and joined Apple in opposing some coding invoices following the trial were pushed.

Correction 21:43 ET: Due to a transcription error, Nadella’s two priorities were mentioned as privacy and national security. He said they were privacy and public safety. This has been corrected.