This article has been edited to reflect the facts of the San Bernadino shooter case
Have you heard about the latest governmental overreach into our rights and privacy? If not, read this article from Ars Technica. It sums things up nicely. Earlier today I was speaking with a friend online about this issue and he said something that inspired me to write a rather lengthy response. I tried to keep it somewhat succinct while speaking with him, but I feel like I have more to say, so I thought I’d post it here. It think it’s an important topic and I also think that a lot of people don’t understand it or even give it much thought. While this site sees only a tiny bit of traffic even on a great day, I hope that by writing this and putting it out there, it may be seen by at least a few people and get them thinking. The more people that are knowledgeable about security in this digital age, the better off we all are.
So here’s what was said that got me thinking and writing:
I have mixed feelings about this FBI Apple case. On one hand it is creating a backdoor loophole that they can’t control such privacy. Then on on the other hand this is something that had this been used in other cases, this could have prevented numerous deaths in different scenarios. It’s a catch 22. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. There needs to be another way to catch criminals but we all know criminals are using their cellphones to communicate or other wireless devices.
There’s several things that strike me about what he said. I think a lot of people feel the way he does, so let’s take things line by line.
Then on on the other hand this is something that had this been used in other cases, this could have prevented numerous deaths in different scenarios.
That other hand that’s talked about is how the government has been able to systematically strip away our rights and freedoms for the past 15 years. They prey on people’s fears that something might happen and that by giving up your day to day freedoms and rights (including your right to privacy!), you’ll somehow prevent some catastrophe or save lives. Meanwhile, there’s been no evidence that this has ever been the case. We’re not any safer now than we were before our government started hardcore spying on us. Not only that, but I can’t think of any example where the government has drastically expanded its power and reach and has only used it for “just this one case,” or with a narrow and targeted scope as they always claim. These things always wind up being abused and it usually happens pretty quick.
It’s a catch 22. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Its really not a catch 22, though. That’s the problem here. Too many people believe that the only effective way to catch criminals is to give up your rights. Ask yourself this: Since the NSA has started logging all of our phone calls and spying on the entire fucking country, how much has crime dropped? How many trials have actually gotten convictions due to the invasive spying of the NSA? How many criminal plots have been foiled? The answer is that it hasn’t done shit. It hasn’t made you any safer. It hasn’t stopped anyone from doing bad things. It has in fact put you more at risk because the government’s cyber security is laughably bad and there have been multiple foreign intrusions into the government’s infrastructure, putting your data at risk.
There needs to be another way to catch criminals but we all know criminals are using their cellphones to communicate or other wireless devices.
There is another way to catch criminals. It’s called proper detective work that follows the laws and established procedures of our justice system. If the laws need to be updated, then we as a society, as an empowered citizenry, need to come together to have a conversation with our elected officials to modify the law or add new ones that are better suited for the current times. This does not involve giving three letter agencies a way to compromise your digital security. These people can’t even keep the personal information for their own employees safe from Chinese and Russian hackers, and you want to give them the keys to all iDevices? Fuck that noise! And if we go back to the specific case in question here, how absurdly weak must the case be against the shooter that all the incriminating evidence is on the guy’s phone? They don’t have any other physical evidence of the crime? And if they do, why not get a court order compelling the suspect to unlock the device by providing his password, instead of going nuclear and demanding a way to unlock all iDevices? Overreach like this doesn’t make anyone safer and doesn’t prevent crime. To believe otherwise is folly and its exactly what the agencies that want to expand their power want you to believe. Where does it stop?
Let’s really think about this case… The shooters were killed in a firefight with the police. Who are they trying to convict? There’s no case here. They don’t need a master key to bypass the encryption on the iPhone. Given that they have no evidence of ongoing criminal activity they can point to and there’s no active case pending prosecution that they need evidence for, it really weakens their position. This is exactly how the Patriot Act and its ilk got passed. They want you so scared that something MIGHT be happening that you’ll just hand over the keys to the kingdom. Hell, the FBI director has even gone on record as saying that the shooters are not part of a larger terrorist organization and didn’t receive direction from any outside group. So again, who’s being investigated here?
This is yet another example of the ever growing invasiveness of various government agencies. These are people who are supposed to protect us, so why are they doing things to harm us? There’s at least one lawmaker who understands this and isn’t afraid to speak out against it. I can only hope more people sit up and take notice. As a law abiding American citizen, I shouldn’t have to fear the various agencies of my government. I shouldn’t have to worry about them spying on my phone calls and all my online actions. There’s no excuse in the world that can reasonably justify their behavior and the fact that they want to continue to expand their power is beyond disturbing. Weakening encryption will solve nothing and if back doors exist to strong encryption, like that on the iPhone, its only a matter of time before people with even less integrity than the agencies tasked to protect us gain access to it. What happens then? What else will we have to give up to be protected from this new threat?
Please take the time to educate yourself on this topic. Read the articles I’ve linked to, especially the comments of Congressman Lieu. There are so many resources that you can use to educate yourself. The only way to truly protect yourself is to fully understand the issues at hand and what’s at stake. Act from a position of knowledge, not from ignorance and blind belief in the infallibility of authority.