Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Keeping Score: Who Is Pro Privacy
Vs Who Is Pro Surveillance


The kettle is boiling a steam of opinions at this point among those who understand and have experienced the question of our US right to privacy vs the need to apply surveillance as perceived 'security'. It turns out there is some question as to what 'security' really means in this case. Are We The People more 'secure' with our government being able to crack into our devices? Or are We The People more 'secure' with uncrackable end to end encryption?

Which brings me to this fascinating interview with former CIA and NSA director General Michael Hayden. There is a man who's been on the bleeding edge. What would you guess is his opinion of this situation?

Former Director of CIA and NSA Says FBI is Wrong about Apple’s Encryption
General Hayden was appointed director of the NSA by President Bill Clinton (D), and then director of the CIA by President George W. Bush (R). The [point] of his interview is that he says there is no doubt that strong encryption makes the job of law enforcement more difficult. On balance, however, strong encryption makes the country stronger. . . 
The article at MacObserver includes a video interview with General Hayden.

When considering the General's point, it's important to consider the 'security' of :

(A) We The People
(B) Business, Corporations
(C) Law Enforcement
(D) Government

Every one of the groups above has suffered profound damage to their security specifically because hackers were able to break into computerized systems holding their data, steal it and abuse it. Every one of them. If those computer systems had used quality, unbreakable, end to end encryption, it is worth speculating that almost NONE of that data robbery would have occurred. I'd add in that if all concerned were knowledgeable of how computing, security and hacking worked, the speculation would have some serious teeth. I'm talking about overcoming the computer security illiteracy barrier. 

Of course, good luck with that. Computer systems are increasingly more complex and we will always have the 'luser factor' among we humans. There will always be people who'll fall for social engineering and other trickery that allow computer hacker entry, no matter what technological barriers are placed in the way. But moving along...

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FBI Director James Comey published an opinion article in the Encryption section of the Lawfare Blog on Sunday, February 21st:

We Could Not Look the Survivors in the Eye if We Did Not Follow this Lead
The San Bernardino litigation isn't about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message. It is about the victims and justice. Fourteen people were slaughtered and many more had their lives and bodies ruined. We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law. That's what this is. The American people should expect nothing less from the FBI. . . .
Reflecting the context of this heart-breaking case, I hope folks will take a deep breath and stop saying the world is ending, but instead use that breath to talk to each other. . . .
 This is what I call an emotional appeal. I personally find this to be an insulting emotional appeal. We The People are apparently emotional animals, prone to hysteria, acting like Chicken Little, saying 'the world is ending' when the FBI drops this 'heart-breaking case' on our heads.

This is how one particular US government official thinks of the citizens he serves.

Mr. Comey then insults Apple:

Although this case is about the innocents attacked in San Bernardino, it does highlight that we have awesome new technology that creates a serious tension between two values we all treasure: privacy and safety. That tension should not be resolved by corporations that sell stuff for a living.
Apple sells stuff. That's what they do. Lucky we, the Apple customers, have a superior corporation from whom we buy that stuff. Tim Cook and Apple are looking out for what We The People, as their customers, require in our computerized gear. We want both privacy AND security. In this case it is security from our own government's illegal, unwarranted, unconstitutional snooping. (Did I add in 'traitorous'? Maybe next time).

This is an issue of:


Do we now trust our US government to obey the law? Do we trust the FBI to treat this as a One-Time-Case?


Do We The People deserve a patronizing Director of the FBI who treats us as moody cattle and asks that we have a 'long conversation' while avoiding the actual constitutional and technical issues involved and feeding us 'think of the children' heart-string pulling rhetoric?


I find FBI Director James Comey to be disingenuous and disturbing. We The People deserve far better. Ideally, he should be entirely removed from the actual conversation and his job. That is of course IMHO. Short of that, he might consider being quiet. He's wrecking his own cause.

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For those who want their head to explode with even more opinions from the kettle, this article is of significant interest:

Apple vs. the FBI: Here's where everyone stands
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Meanwhile, Apple has provided a FAQ about their stance on this issue:

Answers to your questions about Apple and security
Why is Apple objecting to the government’s order?

Is it technically possible to do what the government has ordered?

Could Apple build this operating system just once, for this iPhone, and never use it again?

Has Apple unlocked iPhones for law enforcement in the past?

The government says your objection appears to be based on concern for your business model and marketing strategy. Is that true?

Is there any other way you can help the FBI?

What should happen from here?
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BTW: I sent EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) another $64 this past week. I want the t-shirt! I also appreciate their perspective and legal involvement in all things digital.


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