Outrage of the Week: DOJ and FBI want to outlaw privacy
Apple and Google are planning to enable encryption by default on their smartphones. That is, your personal data on your smartphone would automatically be encrypted such so that no one without the correct password can access the data. Even the OS makers and phone companies couldn't get to it.
Apple’s iOS 8 already allows users to encrypt some information on their phones while the next version of Google’s Android OS, Android L, will enable full-phone encryption by default.
And according to Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey, this means that Apple and Google are pro-terrorist and pro-sexual abusers of children and are, Comey's words, marketing “something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.”
They both want the companies to drop the plans for encryption, with Comey going beyond that to call on Congress to pass a law requiring that all communication tools allow police access to user data on the devices.
Because everything we have learned in the past 15 months,
everything we learned from Ed Snowden,
everything we learned about PRISM,
everything we learned about the world-wide NSA network,
everything we learned about the spying,
everything we learned about the surveillance,
everything we learned about the mass collection of domestic phone records,
everything we learned about the cell-phone tracking,
everything we learned about data mining,
everything we learned about the sweeping up of stunningly massive numbers of emails and internet chats,
everything we learned about entire departments devoted to encryption-breaking,
everything we learned about all of the rest,
all of that is not enough for them. All of that does not quench their thirst for more power to invade every private detail of our lives, does not slake their desire for the control provided by information, does not relieve their fear that there might be something, somewhere, about someone, which they can't know. They have to have access to all of it, every bit, and we must be actively prevented from putting anything beyond their reach, from keeping any of it for ourselves.
And they try to justify this with the achingly-old slippery slope arguments of how if we don't give them everything they want, the terrorists, the criminals, the child kidnappers, the murderers, will have free reign and they will come and murder your children in their beds!
Oh but trust them, do! They only have your safety at heart, truly! It's all "court-authorized law enforcement tools," "lawful investigations," "following the letter of the law," "lawfully obtained information" - all for the purpose, you know it, of "saving lives." And all of which ignores the fact that its the unlimited reach in "what the law allows" that they want which is the issue here.
And despite what they try to make you think, even "court-authorized" often doesn't figure into it. There are these things called National Security Letters, or NSLs. I've written about these for several years, at least as far back as 2005. They are administrative subpoenas issued by the FBI - even by low-level officials in the FBI - which do not require prior judicial review. When served on a communications service providers like phone companies or an ISP, they allow the FBI to secretly demand data about ordinary American citizens' private communications and Internet activity without any meaningful oversight. Recipients are legally barred from ever revealing they were served an NSL.
Twitter is now suing the US government, claiming its inability to reveal at least small chunks of aggregate information about the demands for records it has received is a violation of its free speech. It'll be interesting to see how courts react to this call for corporate free speech as opposed to corporate free speech in giving political donations. But to show you just how much this involves control of information, not only can't service providers which have been served with an NSL tell you that, service providers which have not received a single request for customer data can't tell you that, either.
In 2013, a federal district court in California declared aspects of NLS's to be unconstitutional; however, that decision as stayed pending appeal. That appeal is now before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but in the meantime, there are no restrictions on their use.
Still, still, let's all calm down: You'll be able to have your encryption. Holder said he hopes that "technology companies would be willing to work with us to ensure that law enforcement retains the ability" to obtain the information it wants. So yeah, you'll have your encryption - and they'll have a backdoor to get around it, one built into the system, one making it not only possible but easy.
Because nothing will ever be enough for them.
Comey said “Are we so mistrustful of government - and of law enforcement - that we are willing to let bad guys walk away?”
The answer to that question is yes - because it's becoming increasingly difficult to tell which side of that wiretap "the bad guys" are on. And that, surely, is an outrage.
Sources cited in links: