Friday, April 12, 2024
fbi privacy encryption

FBI Director Blasts Apple And Google For Offering Encryption

fbi privacy encryption

Ok, let’s get some things straight: encryption is out there and available from a lot of companies around the world in a lot of forms and not all of them have payloads from the NSA or other intel agencies. Encryption has been around since the earliest days of public email systems. PGP first appeared in 1991 and has been available ever since. Encryption isn’t anything new BUT encryption in a form that the average person can use easily, quickly and integrate into their daily life has been lacking.

In years past the battle ground for encryption was the desktop, now it’s the mobile device world.

Phil Zimmerman, creator of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), explained using encryption the best way I’ve ever seen and even though he’s talking about email, it applies to your personal device as well:

It’s personal. It’s private. And it’s no one’s business but yours. You may be planning a political campaign, discussing your taxes, or having a secret romance. Or you may be communicating with a political dissident in a repressive country. Whatever it is, you don’t want your private electronic mail (email) or confidential documents read by anyone else. There’s nothing wrong with asserting your privacy. Privacy is as apple-pie as the Constitution.

The right to privacy is spread implicitly throughout the Bill of Rights. But when the United States Constitution was framed, the Founding Fathers saw no need to explicitly spell out the right to a private conversation. That would have been silly. Two hundred years ago, all conversations were private. If someone else was within earshot, you could just go out behind the barn and have your conversation there. No one could listen in without your knowledge. The right to a private conversation was a natural right, not just in a philosophical sense, but in a law-of-physics sense, given the technology of the time.

But with the coming of the information age, starting with the invention of the telephone, all that has changed. Now most of our conversations are conducted electronically. This allows our most intimate conversations to be exposed without our knowledge. Cellular phone calls may be monitored by anyone with a radio. Electronic mail, sent across the Internet, is no more secure than cellular phone calls. Email is rapidly replacing postal mail, becoming the norm for everyone, not the novelty it was in the past._

Until recently, if the government wanted to violate the privacy of ordinary citizens, they had to expend a certain amount of expense and labor to intercept and steam open and read paper mail. Or they had to listen to and possibly transcribe spoken telephone conversation, at least before automatic voice recognition technology became available. This kind of labor-intensive monitoring was not practical on a large scale. It was only done in important cases when it seemed worthwhile. This is like catching one fish at a time, with a hook and line. Today, email can be routinely and automatically scanned for interesting keywords, on a vast scale, without detection. This is like driftnet fishing. And exponential growth in computer power is making the same thing possible with voice traffic.

Perhaps you think your email is legitimate enough that encryption is unwarranted. If you really are a law-abiding citizen with nothing to hide, then why don’t you always send your paper mail on postcards? Why not submit to drug testing on demand? Why require a warrant for police searches of your house? Are you trying to hide something? If you hide your mail inside envelopes, does that mean you must be a subversive or a drug dealer, or maybe a paranoid nut? Do law-abiding citizens have any need to encrypt their email?

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Flash forward to Apple’s announcement that in iOS 8 they’ve altered the way encryption works. Apple will no longer store encryption keys for devices, making it *impossible* for it to unlock content on devices even under police request.

“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access your data,” reads Apple’s privacy site. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

That means that if you use a passcode or TouchID, your phone is encrypted. It’s that simple.

Then comes some great news to follow this (competition is great!) Google made a follow up announcement of their own saying the next generation of Android, scheduled to be released next month, will also encrypt data by default, providing the same encryption protections to its smartphones that a passcode provides to iPhones.

This is great news for all of us. This is why it’s great to have both Apple and Google as the leaders in the smartphone arena. Competition brings out the best in both of them.

Oh… but the FBI Director isn’t too happy about this. The Verge reported on this and this is the FBI Director’s quote:

“I like and believe very much that we should have to obtain a warrant from an independent judge to be able to take the content of anyone’s closet or their smart phone,” he said. “The notion that someone would market a closet that could never be opened — even if it involves a case involving a child kidnapper and a court order — to me does not make any sense.”

As usual, anything with technology and privacy in play brings out the “child pornography” or in this case “child kidnapping” rational to their complaint.

He goes on to say that they’ve had discussions with Google and Apple but no details have emerged.

Privacy is a slippery slope that many people didn’t learn from bush/chaney well enough: you start giving it away they will always take more and more and not stop taking.

the authorK.B.

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