As the Apple/FBI case heats up, the surveillance hawks continue to insist that backdoors into the encryption that protects smartphones are necessary to address the threat of terrorists and other dangerous criminals “going dark.” But one of the most respected voices in computer security says that “solution” is more dangerous than the problem it proposes to solve.
Representatives of both Apple and the FBI appeared before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Over a period of five and a half hours, the committee heard sworn testimony about the underlying issues in the case of the FBI attempting — via court order — to force Apple to create a backdoor for the iOS platform.
There is a lot at stake in the case of the FBI demanding that Apple create new software to enable the agency to circumvent the encryption on the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. The FBI argues that the phone may contain information about his terrorist contacts. Privacy advocates and Apple argue that the software the FBI wants is a backdoor and would threaten the privacy — and liberty — of anyone using encryption on any device to protect their data and communications.
Donald Trump has waded into the battle between the Justice Department and Apple over smartphone encryption. The controversial presidential candidate has called for a boycott of “all Apple products until such time as Apple gives cellphone info to authorities.”
Earlier this week, a District Court Judge ordered Apple to build a backdoor into the encryption software used in the iOS platform used by iPhones.
After Brendan Eich resigned as CEO of the Mozilla Corporation amid controversy when it was revealed that he had given $1,000 to support a California ban on same-sex marriage, he set out to do again what he had done with Mozilla's Firefox browser: revolutionize the way people access the Internet.
Last month Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. released a report claiming that new encrypted devices pose "a threat to law enforcement efforts" and are "a boon to dangerous criminals." His report calls for new laws to compel companies to build backdoors into the encryption used on mobile devices, but he fails to make the case.
Last week, Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote an error-laden piece for the Wall Street Journal in which he claimed that "Encrypted devices block law enforcement from collecting evidence. Period." As if the only item in the law enforcement tool box is ubiquitous surveillance, and without it no evidence can be collected.
A non-profit organization dedicated to exposing threats to digital liberties and preserving those liberties has accused Google of spying on students via the use of Chromebooks in schools. In violation of an agreement Google signed in January forbidding the harvesting of student data, it has done exactly that "for its own purposes," according to a complaint the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed with the FTC.
Windows 10 seems to be Microsoft's deliberate attempt to create the most intrusive operating system ever. If that is the goal, the software giant from Redmond, Washington, is succeeding. It seems that every new update brings the newest iteration of Windows closer and closer to giving Microsoft total control over the way users can operate their own computers. The most recent update makes that abundantly clear.
Unsurprisingly, in the wake of last week's deadly attacks in Paris, there has been an escalating demand — by those always in favor of such things — for an increase in surveillance. There has also been a call for limitations to technology that permits encrypted communications. The surveillance hawks seem to believe that liberty and security cannot coexist. Given the choice, they opt for sacrificing liberty for the sake of security.