Sunday, February 21, 2016

Apple vs FBI: I Never Thought I Would Defend Apple Again

Apple Inc. is a despicable company that is absolutely in the right in its current battle with the FBI.  The short version of the story is that the FBI wants Apple to bypass and weaken encryption on its iOS devices to make it easier for law enforcement to access data stored on them.  Apple is refusing.  Apple is right.  

I'm going to keep this brief because the reasons Apple is right are very simple and the details of the current FBI case don't matter[1].  Encryption is good for everyone.  Privacy is good for everyone.  The only things better than encryption and privacy are better encryption and privacy.  When it becomes easier[2] for the FBI to get past Apple's encryption it becomes easier for everyone to get past everyone's encryption.  That makes all of us more vulnerable, not just to embarrassing revelations about our personal lives but to crime.  

Although I certainly believe someone within the FBI would eventually abuse[3] the ability to crack an iPhone that speculative argument it not needed for Apple to be right and the FBI to be wrong[4].  We are not, in the long run, safer if law enforcement and governments gain the ability to more easily access our personal information.  Doing it in the name of solving a recent, horrible crime does not change that.

[1]  This is not to say the crime in question was trivial.  It was not.  People died.  
[2]  I also believe the FBI can, eventually, get what they want without Apple's help.  There is no such thing as unbreakable encryption.  Circumstances often make it extremely difficult or impractical to break, but that is exactly what we want.  Let the FBI do it themselves, if they must.  Apple will be complicit in all the damage that follows if they cooperate.
[3]  For any authority a coercive or legitimate power not worth abusing is not worth having.  
[4]  It is worth noting that while Apple does not have a perfect record on privacy they have gotten a lot better.  Observe the difference in their 2013 and 2015 Who Has Your Back scores from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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