State vs Apple. Trump vs Cook. And more talk about backdoors!

Written by on February 19, 2016 in Opinion with 0 Comments

Backdoor manI have been trying really hard not to get involved in the ongoing debate and battle between Apple and the FBI regarding providing a ‘backdoor’ into the encrypted data on the iPhone of the San Bernadino ‘terrorist’ shooter – but I can’t help myself.

Even though this is primarily a US issue we all know that when the USA sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold. Non-Americans have watched in horror the atrocities of 9/11, in shock at the subsequent introduction of the Patriot Act that effectively withdrew civil liberties that had been fought for over many years and then the infamous Snowden exposures that showed what lengths security forces will go to in order to garner information.

The USA is not the only country to have suffered terrorist attacks on its own land but it has definitely responded more vigorously than most introducing security measures and surveillance techniques that go to enormous lengths.

Up until the Snowden disclosures it seemed that most Americans were OK with losing some of their own freedom and convenience (air travel is but one example) in return for increased security and safety. If it was the objective of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda to disrupt peoples lives for ever then the goal was certainly achieved.

Even writing about this from an outsider’s viewpoint is sure to cause annoyance and controversy amongst our many American friends but the whole world has and is still feeling the effects. Yet post-Snowden, we have all become more attentive to the security of our own personal data now that we know it is being used not only by our ‘protectors’ but also by online merchants and service providers in order to give us a better customer experience and simpler decision-making when it comes to buying things.

The whole unfettered data issue blows out of all proportion when we factor in the Internet of Things including wearables, watches, sensors, home management, connected cars and smart TV that will listen to what we say about a TV show while we are watching. Nothing in our lives is or will be private, period. So get used to it. If it’s OK for governments to collect our data and use it then it must be OK for everyone else, right?

Which brings us back to Apple and their encrypted iPhones, as well as a host of personal encryption and privacy devices and solutions that are coming onto the market in droves. After taking into account the above it is no wonder that people are embracing such technology and why governments are becoming fearful they could be used for untraceable anti-social activities like money-laundering and illegal trade.

I have news for all of them. These activities have been going on successfully and often undetected for hundreds of years, well before mobile phones were around and even after when they could be monitored. Lots of normal citizens will flock to encryption, not to be covert or indulge in illegal activities, but simply to stick their noses (and the odd finger) up at the authorities and data miners that have yet to ensure they can be trusted to use it responsibly.

Take whichever side you like in the Apple vs State (and it is the state, not just FBI) standoff, it is a no-win situation for either side and certainly a no-win situation for those that have invested in any form of encryption device or service because they will all become defunct (in legal terms) if the state has its way. People that have bought encryption will want their money back. Apple will lose market share and the respect of its customers. It simply cannot open the ‘backdoor’ for one device and guarantee that it will not be abused.

As for the FBI and its ilk. This is surely a test case to break the encryption wave it is most fearful of. Maybe it should do its job like it always has using the tools it readily has at its disposal. There is very little chance that the ‘crucial evidence‘ on that one iPhone cannot be gleaned from other sources. Every call made from the phone can be traced by the network operators, thus giving the numbers of known associates. All data traffic could be traced using DPI technology. Everywhere the phone has been could be tracked using technology and data from Google and others.

How come French authorities managed to track down all known associates of the Paris attacks and identify those that managed to escape using every other tool at their disposal and some very clever detective work to boot?

Demanding Apple break its own rules and expose the trust of millions of others for the sake of one isolated attack seems more than a little heavy-handed and smacks of ‘big brother’ tactics. This is yet another attack on American’s civil liberties. Politicians and would-be presidential candidates are now jumping on the bandwagon. The state’s PR machine is going into overdrive to discredit and shame Apple CEO, Tim Cook, for his ‘unpatriotic’ stand, but this time there has been a backlash on social networks.

Give me strength. If a Presidential election were held today and Tim Cook was a candidate, especially against Donald Trump, who do you think would win? Perhaps the FBI and other state funded authorities of national security should give that some thought, then maybe get on with their jobs catching the real baddies?

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About the Author

About the Author: Tony is a freelance writer, regular speaker, MC and chairman for the telecoms and digital services industries worldwide. He has founded and managed software and services companies, acts a market strategist and is now Editor of DisruptiveViews. In June 2011, Tony was recognized as one of the 25 most influential people in telecom software worldwide. .

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