Last Thursday, FBI Director James B. Comey had a bit of a hissy fit over the news that Apple and Google are outfitting their phone operating systems with encryption that will be virtually impossible to break:
FBI Director James B. Comey sharply criticized Apple and Google on Thursday for developing forms of smartphone encryption so secure that law enforcement officials cannot easily gain access to information stored on the devices — even when they have valid search warrants.
His comments were the most forceful yet from a top government official but echo a chorus of denunciation from law enforcement officials nationwide. Police have said that the ability to search photos, messages and Web histories on smartphones is essential to solving a range of serious crimes, including murder, child pornography and attempted terrorist attacks.
“There will come a day when it will matter a great deal to the lives of people . . . that we will be able to gain access” to such devices, Comey told reporters in a briefing. “I want to have that conversation [with companies responsible] before that day comes.”
I find this argument to be essentially fascist in its nature and reflects the growing opinion in government, but particularly in law enforcement, that they have the right to intrude into any area of your life, force you to cooperate in your own prosecution, and kill you with impunity if the mood hits them.
While there is no doubt that this will make some prosecutions more difficult it is hard to see why that should be a concern of the population who are more concerned about their mobile device being compromised via loss or theft. Just last term, the Supreme Court banned the practice that was becoming standard in police forces of search smartphones anytime a person was detained, even in the case of traffic offenses.
In attacking this product offering, law enforcement officials are throwing up all manner of smoke screens, for instance:
The level of privacy described by Apple and Google is “wonderful until it’s your kid who is kidnapped and being abused, and because of the technology, we can’t get to them,” said Ronald Hosko, who left the FBI earlier this year as the head of its criminal-investigations division. “Who’s going to get lost because of this, and we’re not going to crack the case?”
This is an egregious lie on so many levels but it is emblematic of the mindset that …read more