Can you feel it in the air? A change is coming; a change of sufficient magnitude that law-abiding citizens should give proper and prompt consideration to their personal privacy and security before it is too late.
The new government in the U.K. has passed a new law which will result in a massive expansion of the government’s surveillance powers. The law is so severe that critics call it ‘the snooper’s charter‘ and both dangerous and terrifying. What is it and what does it have to do with those of us in the U.S?
Big Brother Is Watching
The basic items in the U.K. law require internet service providers to record the top-level web history for every customer for up to a year. Even if you use a utility on your Mac to scrub your browser history, in the U.K. the government can find out what sites you visited, when, and for how long.
If that’s not scary enough, the government also has the option to force companies to decrypt your personal data on request. Guess what gets encrypted these days? Files on your Mac, iPhone, and iPad. In the U.K., government agencies can hack into your devices whenever they choose. One member of the Open Rights Group called it “the most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy.”
Could this same kind of surveillance come to the U.S. to make your Mac, iPhone, and iPad visible to government snoops? Maybe it isn’t as publicly blatant as it is in the U.K. but similar capabilities are present and in action in various U.S. government agencies already, Apple vs. F.B.I. and terrorist’s iPhones notwithstanding.
What Will Apple Do?
One of the benefits to being an Apple customer is the extra few layers of privacy and security that the company builds into macOS Sierra and iOS for Mac, iPhone, and iPad. That privacy and security has increased in recent years and the trend has made its way to other internet related and accessible applications and products, including the popular WhatsApp, now with video calling and end-to-end encryption, just like Apple’s FaceTime.
I fear such actions by Apple and others may be too little and too late under a new administration whose leaders have played fast and loose with truth and facts; criticized and threatened Apple’s security policies.
It’s understandable that people want to be secure in the face of terrorist actions wherever they are; homeland or abroad. They say that if guns are banned then only criminals will have guns and people will have no way to protect themselves. The same argument can be made on personal security. Cryptographic technology is such that if encryption is banned for the masses, or back door access is provided everywhere, then only criminals and terrorists will have closed encryption, and everyone else will have no way to protect themselves– from criminals, terrorists, and government overreach.
In the face of such dramatic changes to the landscape in the past year, what will Apple do?