Dangerous ground or much ado about nothing?
The FBI, in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack, has gone to court and gotten a judge to order Apple to write software to decrypt the iPhones the two terrorists used. The FBI has been unable to decrypt them on their own.
Apple has refused to comply.
After reading much of the back and forth between government and Apple, I’m with Apple. As the Electronic Freedom Frontier said:
The government is asking Apple to create a master key so that it can open a single phone,” it said Tuesday evening. “And once that master key is created, we’re certain that our government will ask for it again and again, for other phones, and turn this power against any software or device that has the audacity to offer strong security.”
It’s about violating your privacy by being ordered to hand the government the key with implied permission to use it. Think Pandora’s Box. Forget security, you may as well not encrypt a phone if a master key is available out there. We’d love to believe the government when it says it will only use that software once, but anyone with a modicum of intelligence (and experience with governments) knows how likely that is. And, well, we also know how well our government does cyber security, don’t we Ms. Clinton?
Er, anyway – the government is using a 18th century law, the All Writs Act, to claim that it can demand such software from Apple.
The law lets judges “issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”
A little word salad that has the government claiming it has every right to make this demand do just about anything it chooses (if it can get a judge to say so).
Marc J. Zwillinger, a lawyer for Apple, wrote in a letter for a related case in October that the All Writs Act could not be interpreted to “force a company to take possession of a device outside of its possession or control and perform services on that device, particularly where the company does not perform such services as part of its business and there may be alternative means of obtaining the requested information available to the government.”
The government says it does not have those alternative means.
Mr. Cook’s statement called the government’s demands “chilling.”
“If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”
This is another indicator of how corrosive the “War on Terror” has been to our liberties. It’s like slow drip acid, with every drop another assault on what we once took for granted as protections against an invasive government. And our government has been more and more invasive as concerns our privacy since this “war” began.
Sometimes, looking at what the government attempts to do in the name of security, you’d think the terrorists had won, wouldn’t you?