John Oliver explains the encryption battle

On his show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver discusses the fight between Apple and the FBI about the latter’s demand that Apple weaken its encryption sufficiently to let law enforcement gain access to the data in phones. Meanwhile, other technology companies such as Facebook, Google, and Snapchat are also increasing the security of their products.


  1. says

    And this is why I am so damned frustrated that everything is moving to cloud servers. I do not want Apple to keep track of every little thing I do. I do not want Microsoft to do that, either. Or Google. Or any of the other scores of companies that eagerly demand that I use their “free” “service.”

    Their ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, and the way they keep pushing “free” cloud services, you know they stand to make a vast amount of money for doing so.

  2. says

    The US government asking Apple to crack iphones isn’t equivalent to breaking into a safe or an office. It’s equivalent to forcing someone to incriminate themselves. No one else can access the phone (including friends of the “ter-rists”, as Lindsey Graham Cracker calls them) without physical access to the phone. Even if “dangerous people” know the passcode, they can’t do anything unless they physically have the phone, and if the police state…I mean, law enforcement have the phone, any threat the phone poses is neutralized.

    Without physical access to the phone, the data on it is as private to everyone as the data inside one’s own head. Unless the US government took away the right against self-incrimination, there is no justification for asking for access to the phones. Then again, it was the US government which tried to legalize torture so they could make people talk.

  3. felicis says

    “It’s equivalent to forcing someone to incriminate themselves.”

    What? No -- it is not.

    And -to shift to Mr. Oliver -- while Apple says they cannot do this now, they are certainly capable, and if they thought it would make them some money, they would totally sell us out. That’s something glossed over -- it’s not just a battle of Apple versus ‘hackers’ for the data on your phone that you dropped, but Apple too has an interest in your data. For now, that interest is in keeping customers under the illusion that pictures are reasonably safe on that phone (which gives a motivation for that open letter -- “look -- our phones are so secure, the government can’t get in!” plus the added message of “we are fighting for the little guy!”

    No -- Apple is not on our side in this. Their interests are not even closely aligned with ours at this point -- they only appear to be.

    I’ve commented on this before, and people assume that I am taking an anti-privacy stance (I am not) or that I am on the ‘side of the government’ (I am not). I appreciate the fact that, if Apple has a weakened security system, it will have massive effects on personal privacy, and I do not believe the government is being particularly honest with their overall goals.

    That said -- neither is Apple. I am not even sure I believe that there is not already an in-house patch that can do this, or some work-around built in by engineers to make testing easier. I certainly do not believe Apple when their CEO tries telling us that they are standing up to the government for privacy rights. Apple does not care about human rights -- if they did, their phone would not be made with slave labor.

    The big difference between the two (the government and Apple) is that we have some, however small, say in how our government operates. We have a system (imperfect, and that carries with it a history of abuse and the potential, as this is, for new abuses), but that *is* our system. We either accept that the Federal government can search things (with a properly issued search warrant), as well as compel aid in such a search (again, with a lawfully issued write), or we deny that the government has such power at all.

    If you want to argue that the All Writs Act is over-broad, then let’s take a look at that.
    If you want to argue that this specific order is too broad because what can be done once can be done again? I’m not buying it. (Note that Oliver’s point about Russia and China watching the outcome of this case in the US is a bit of fear-mongering. Whatever the outcome of this case, Russia and China (and other countries -- why those two? Does he not think Germany or Brazil or France or Norway would try to do the same thing?) will do what they way (assuming they don’t already have a way in).

    Right now -- the public view of this case (to me) puts Apple pretty much in line with the Bundys -- they don’t believe the government can order them to do things. In that, they are wrong.

    Should the government be able to order this? I’m still on the fence. Yes -- privacy concerns, but I think that bird has flown (at least, I need to be convinced that this produces a significantly greater risk to privacy than already exists).

  4. kyoseki says

    Should foreign governments be able to force Apple to engineer backdoors for their purposes as well?

    Why is it only the US government that tells a global company what to do?

  5. felicis says

    Should foreign governments be able to force Apple to engineer backdoors for their purposes as well?
    Why is it only the US government that tells a global company what to do?

    What planet do you live on? You think other countries *don’t* do anything like this? And why do you assume Apple has not already built in a backdoor for _their_ own purposes?

  6. kyoseki says

    Of course they do, but your solution appears to be that Apple (and, presumably, all other hardware manufacturers) should, instead, simply capitulate and install backdoors for every government of every country where they do business.

    At that point, why even bother with encryption in the first place?

  7. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Responding to felicis
    As far as I know, it’s a completely new and novel kind of court order -- to order a third party to help the government perform law enforcement. (New at least in terms of the last 100 years of criminal law -- separate story.) In what other context has there ever been a court order based on such a ridiculously overbroad law that forces a person or corporation to assist the government in a law enforcement exercise against a third person. Remember, no one is saying that Apple is criminally complicit or liable in any way whatsoever with the crimes under investigation. It’s a radical power grab AFAICT to seek a court order to order a private, third party to assist the government in a criminal investigation, outside of any statutory authority to do so.

    And fuck that “All Writs Act”. Any court at the time it was written would laugh the FBI out of court today. Assuredly so. That point should not be open for reasonable debate. And laughing the FBI out of court for attempting to use this law in this way is exactly what the modern courts should do.

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