Privacy Blog

“By continuing the process of inflation, governments can confiscate secretly and unobserved an important part of the wealth of their citizens.” – John Maynard Keynes, writing about the effects of a seemingly small amount of inflation every year.

More about the FBI Demands for Apple to Make a Custom Spy Version of iOS for the iPhone

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s article, FBI Demands Apple to Make a Custom Spy Version of iOS for the iPhone:

Apple is embroiled in a dispute with an order by a federal magistrate on Tuesday, compelling it to provide technical assistance to the FBI for its investigation into one of the San Bernardino shooters. In online articles and remarks, the general public seems divided about 50/50 on the issue. Some say it would be a landmark unwarranted invasion of personal privacy by the government while others seem to feel that this is simply an isolated case of obtaining evidence about now-deceased criminals. However, analysts and lawmakers alike warn FBI that ramifications over its demand that Apple unlock the San Bernardino killer’s iPhone ‘could snowball around the world.’

First of all, this case is not confined to the United States. If Apple develops the technology and makes it available to the U.S. government, it most likely will have to provide the same technology to other governments around the world, including to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Russia, China, and other repressive governments. What is legally required within one country then would be equally required within other countries.

Next, once developed, there would be no method of confining this technology to cases involving legitimate court orders from various governments. It is difficult, often impossible, to keep secrets. Once the technology exists anywhere, it probably will eventually become available to hackers, criminals, and to foreign governments. Identity thieves and repressive governments alike could use the same technology against the citizens of the U.S. and all other countries.

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a leading legislator on privacy and tech issues, warned the FBI to step back from the brink or risk setting a precedent for authoritarian countries.

“This move by the FBI could snowball around the world. Why in the world would our government want to give repressive regimes in Russia and China a blueprint for forcing American companies to create a backdoor?” Wyden told the Guardian.

“Companies should comply with warrants to the extent they are able to do so, but no company should be forced to deliberately weaken its products. In the long run, the real losers will be Americans’ online safety and security.”

Chinese state media in 2014 labeled the iPhone a national security threat for collecting location data from users and compromising “state secrets.”

The impact of the mutual distrust between Washington and Beijing can be seen in China’s new cybersecurity and counter-terrorism bill, passed last December. The far-reaching law mandates that internet firms and telecos doing business in China provide law enforcement with decryption keys in terrorism cases. Analysts and foreign firms are waiting to see how far China goes in enforcing the controversial measure, particularly in light of Apple’s standoff with the FBI.

So what is the difference between the Chinese government’s cybersecurity and counter-terrorism bill demanding access to private encrypted data and the FBI’s demand to obtain access to private encrypted data?

Both are equally wrong.

Categories: Encryption, Legal Affairs

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