New privacy battle looms after moves by Apple, Google

October 1, 2014 by Rob Lever
A new battle is brewing over privacy for mobile devices, after moves by Google and Apple to toughen the encryption of their mobile devices sparked complaints from law enforcement

A new battle is brewing over privacy for mobile devices, after moves by Google and Apple to toughen the encryption of their mobile devices sparked complaints from law enforcement.

The issue is part of a long-running debate over whether tech gadgets should have privacy-protecting encryption which makes it difficult for to access in time-sensitive investigations.

FBI director James Comey reignited the issue last week, criticizing Apple and Google for new measures that keep smartphones locked down—without even the company holding the keys to unlock the data.

"What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law," the FBI chief said, warning that law enforcement may be denied timely access, even with a warrant, in cases ranging from child kidnapping to terrorism.

Former FBI criminal division chief Ronald Hosko made a similar point in an opinion piece in the Washington Post, citing a case in which the agency used smartphone data to solve a brutal kidnapping just in time to save the life of the victim.

"Most investigations don't rely solely on information from one source, even a smartphone," he said. "But without each and every important piece of the investigative puzzle, criminals and those who plan acts destructive to our may walk free."

Crypto Wars 2.0

Observers who follow privacy and encryption say they have seen this debate before.

In the mid-1990s, as the Internet was gaining traction, the government pressed for access to digital "keys" to any encryption software or hardware, before abandoning what ended up being a futile effort.

"This is Crypto Wars 2.0," says Joseph Hall of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a digital rights group active in both campaigns.

FBI director James Comey reignited the issue last week, criticizing Apple and Google for new measures that keep smartphones locked down

Today, "the main difference is that phones are increasingly deeply personal, containing much more daily life and interaction than a desktop from the 1990s" Hall said.

Hall argued that giving law enforcement access requires companies to "engineer vulnerabilities" which could be exploited by hackers or others.

"There's no way to tell the difference between a good guy and bad guy when they walk through the back door," he said.

Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation says the FBI has been making these arguments since 1995, with the same flawed logic.

"We've seen this movie before," Cohn said.

"Regulating and controlling consumer use of encryption was a monstrous proposal officially declared in 2001," she said in a blog post. "But like a zombie, it's now rising from the grave, bringing the same disastrous flaws with it."

In 2013, before the revelations of massive surveillance from leaked National Security Agency documents, the FBI called for broader authority to capture mobile communications which fall outside traditional surveillance, such as Skype and Google Hangouts.

But activities say leaked NSA documents suggest that contrary to FBI claims made last year, the government has many tools at its disposal.

"There are an increasing number of places where we leave our digital trails," Hall said, including in the Internet cloud, where it can be accessed with a court order.

The issue is part of a long-running debate over whether tech gadgets should have privacy-protecting encryption which makes it difficult for law enforcement to access in time-sensitive investigations
No back doors

Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at the Stanford University Center for Internet and Society, said the FBI argument overlooks the fact US tech firms must compete in the global marketplace.

"Global customers do not want backdoored products any more than Americans do, and with very good reason," Granick writes on the "Just Security" blog.

"Authoritarian countries like Russia, China, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia want to censor, spy on, and control their citizens' communications. These nations are just as able to make demands that Apple and Google decrypt devices as the FBI is, and to back up those demands with effective threats."

On balance, she said, "the public is more secure, not less secure, with the wide use of strong cryptography—including cryptography without back doors."

Mike Janke, chief executive of the firm Silent Circle which makes the fully encrypted Blackphone, said the FBI is making a "false cry" against Google and Apple because the law enforcement agency can easily gain access to a phone—through a carrier tap, or location tracking, for example.

Greater privacy, Janke said, comes from the harder encryption on Blackphone, but law enforcement can still track a user's location as long as the battery is inside.

While a small number of people may use encryption for nefarious purposes, Janke said, "do you sacrifice the privacy and trade secrets of everyone else because of that?"

Explore further: FBI head criticizes Apple, Google over data encryption

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14 comments

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Returners
1 / 5 (4) Oct 01, 2014
It violates the commerce clause in the constitution.

The Federal Government has the power to regulate interstate commerce, and phone calls, particularly ones that use Satellites, fall under "Interstate Commerce".

Which means you shouldn't be able to encrypt them in a way that the government can't break.

I'm for privacy, but I am also for governments catching bad guys right away.

We have entirely too much murder, rape, and trafficking in the modern world, considering the amount of cameras we have.

It wouldn't hurt if they doubled up on surveillance, IMO. My privacy hasn't been violated by law enforcement.
alfie_null
4 / 5 (4) Oct 01, 2014
It violates the commerce clause in the constitution.

The Federal Government has the power to regulate interstate commerce, and phone calls, particularly ones that use Satellites, fall under "Interstate Commerce".

No thanks for the unsolicited legal advice. Polymath that you'd like to be, YANAL.

Which means you shouldn't be able to encrypt them in a way that the government can't break.

I'm for privacy, but I am also for governments catching bad guys right away.

We have entirely too much murder, rape, and trafficking in the modern world, considering the amount of cameras we have.

It wouldn't hurt if they doubled up on surveillance, IMO. My privacy hasn't been violated by law enforcement.

You have a deep trust that governments will always tend towards looking out for the best interests of their citizens. History, also, is apparently not in your skillset.
Returners
1 / 5 (3) Oct 01, 2014
You have a deep trust that governments will always tend towards looking out for the best interests of their citizens. History, also, is apparently not in your skillset.


We have more freedom in this country than virtually any other, AND we get to vote, AND we have media of all types which can say damn near anything they want.

in fact, government officials are forced to resign, even when they've broken no law, just because they said something that wasn't "politically correct", or sent a nude photo to a girl he was having an affair with.

Our government is representative, and the above scenario shows that government officials are actually too weak in power level, when a mere sway in public opinion can cause them to be illegally forced to resign or kicked out of office without an impeachment proceeding.

You are quite wrong friend.

Presidents can't even prosecute wars properly, because it isn't "PC", thus we suffer more in the long term.

It's bullshit.
Returners
1 / 5 (4) Oct 01, 2014
Presidents can't defend the border properly against illegal immigrants and drug traffickers, and sex traffickers, because it isn't "PC" to "racially profile" people without a passport or visa, much less people who do have them (but shouldn't).

OMG, you can't say there's a correlation between Islam and terrorism, that isn't PC.
Virtually all international terrorism is Islam related these days. And a significant portion of "home grown" terrorism is Islam related. yet Presidents won't stand up and confront the Islamic community and say something like, "Hey people, clean your own house. Something's wrong with you people."

You know, I'm a Christian and I'll tell you first hand that the Spaniard Conquistadors and Inquisition were EVIL, and burning people at the stake randomly over witchcraft accusations, and pressing them and drowning them, etc, is EVIL.

We don't do that, because it was never supposed to be done.

"For God so loved the WORLD..."
antialias_physorg
3.3 / 5 (3) Oct 01, 2014
We have more freedom in this country than virtually any other

Do you? I know you're being told that "America is the land of freedom" on a constant basis...but does that actually mesh with reality?
From the POV of the rest of the world that's about as much PR blurb as North Korea saying they have democratic elections.
Returners
1 / 5 (5) Oct 01, 2014
You want to talk about weak government...

Bush: "Islam is a beautiful religion...a religion of Peace and Love." (post 9/11 speech).

Obama said something similar.

It isn't a war on Islam, at least it doesn't have to be, but this is probably the first time in the past several hundred years where the entirety of a nation's enemies are of the exact same faith, and boldly pronounce their intentions of exterminating entire races and nations in the name of their "God".

If there are 40,000 armed Isis members, how many silent supporters are there? How many in the supply chains?

In 2003 for the U.S. military, there were 7 non-combatants in the U.S. supply chain for every 1 combatant in the war.

Assuming Isis is less advanced, which they are, it would no-doubt be harder for them to support an army, therefore we assume they too must have at least 7 non-combatants in their supply chain for every 1 combatant.

Which means there are at least 320,000 supporters in the organization.
Returners
1 / 5 (6) Oct 01, 2014
Do you? I know you're being told that "America is the land of freedom" on a constant basis...but does that actually mesh with reality?
From the POV of the rest of the world that's about as much PR blurb as North Korea saying they have democratic elections.


I have never had any communication censored by any government agency except in two regards.

1, A poll I designed on school server, not knowing that some of it's content required Internal Review Board approval. This was an accident, and was my fault, because I failed to find the correct web-page outlining policy.

2, Normal classroom/location-based "be quiet" rules.

No form of communication of mine has ever been censored by any government agency due to content or intent.

In fact, I have been banned by "liberal" websites, typically AGW related ones, including this one and physforum, more than any other form of censorship.

The majority of bans I have ever had resulted from opposing mainstream science views.
subpepper
not rated yet Oct 01, 2014
Returners, your trust in government and disregard for history is disturbing, but not surprising. All these freedoms that you point out that we have, voting rights, media protections, etc., are even now being whittled away. And it happens because we, the citizens, hand our liberties over to our government a bit at a time, almost always in the name of "security" or "public safety."
The government is run by human beings, fallible like the rest of us, and tempted to abuse privileges, just like the rest of us. The NSA has already been caught with their hand in the liberty cookie jar, and we are letting them continue to violate our privacy with their "meta data is not data" justification nonsense. That's just one example.
Don't buy into their argument that they are just trying to keep us safe. They need to seriously justify why they need more of our freedoms and liberties. Stop just handing them away because they say you need to.
thatsitalright
3 / 5 (2) Oct 01, 2014
I agree that no one should be able to place themselves beyond the law. The fact that an average person can do this simply by going into a room, shutting the door behind them and leaving their phone outside - is deeply troubling. There needs to be some kind of law that requires people to have their phones on them at all times - mic and camera too. If they aren't doing anything wrong they shouldn't have anything to worry about.
ForFreeMinds
1 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2014
"I'm for privacy, but I am also for governments catching bad guys right away."

What's wrong with catching the bad guys a month later, after obtaining a search warrant and then accessing the phone? I'd be happy with that. The idea they might prevent a crime by having a backdoor, shows your ignorance of law enforcement.

And what is your proposal, to protect law abiding citizens, from crooks in government who get access to your personal information? You are allowing the foxes to guard the henhouse. Many crooks go to work for government, simply because the power of government allows them to steal and other government employees won't investigate/prosecute them, less they become a target themselves.
teslaberry
2.3 / 5 (4) Oct 01, 2014
this is horrible. the government should actually require all people wear digital anal supporsitories so we can stop terrorism.

anyone reading these comment boards and similar ones on the net realizes that half or more of the posters are paid by the u.s. government or other stakeholders to push their agenda. outrageous usage of taxes to brainwash the taxpaying public. this is how it works in communist china also, they only pay their censorship army less money than we do in the u.s.

at some point the interet will be rendered a useless piece of shit because , in an attempt to squash any meaningful conversation about the problems---the government will simply render the web as nonsense through censorship and noise.

it is already happening. people who believe the united states internet is not censored at all are fooling themselves and ignorant. dissident websites are attacked regularly. journalists in the u.s. who investigate corruption or help whistleblowers are targeted too...
gkam
1 / 5 (3) Oct 01, 2014
I fear the powers of our government because I helped develop deploy and operate the Electronic Battlefield in Vietnam, and served for 24 months on a Federal Criminal Grand Jury. But saying "half or more of the posters are paid by the u.s. government or other stakeholders to push their agenda" is ridiculous.

TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 01, 2014
From the POV of the rest of the world that's about as much PR blurb as North Korea saying they have democratic elections.
Apparently some germans dont share your views.

"Freedom – Civil Rights Party for More Freedom and Democracy
Some of their core issues include:
The introduction of direct citizen democracy based on the Swiss model.
Tougher measures on crime
The reduction of immigration to deal with integration issues.
Support of Israel.
Stricter social welfare policies.
Combat the "Islamisation of Germany."
Zera
2.5 / 5 (2) Oct 01, 2014
This conversation smells like one single individual with multiple accounts having a structured conversation with themselves.

It's the way no-definition occurs between personalities that gives it away to me. I've seen antalias and Ghost here before, I'm fairly sure they're human beings.

But even the names invoke implied trust "tesla, gkam, free, and ofcourse Returners".

I'm Australian arguably USA's closest ally (having present/allied with and co-operative with every American military action EVER), however, I don't consider America: "the land of the free", you have what we have, structured freedom.

You're free as long as you are conforming to the status quo.

By the way New Zealand has the highest quality of life.

China has the highest average IQ.

I can't remember but I think it's either Sweden or Norway (one of those North-Eastern Euro countries) that has the highest level of freedom.

Why not copy success, laying out models based on examples rather than argue semantics?

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