When it comes to the basics of privacy and security, I fear the worst is yet to come. We’re not 100 days into Donald Trump’s presidency and the news media has been rocked with one controversy after another.
What the future holds often shows up elsewhere, and that’s the case with privacy and security. Government in the U.K wants access to encryption like that used in WhatsApp, Apple’s Messages, Signal, and others which provide end-to-end encryption. Why? Is Apple’s walled garden and cultivated domain ready to be breached? Yes.
Barbarians At The Gate
The problem is rather simple and straightforward. Terrorists exist and cause harm. They also use encrypted applications and devices to avoid being tracked by authorities. Said authorities want some kind of backdoor access to such encryption so they can monitor, track, and even apprehend criminal entities.
Fair enough, right? If you have nothing to hide, then you’re not really hiding from the government. This is an old argument that is laid bare with a single statement.
Secondary access to encryption is the same as no encryption at all.
Encryption that keeps out everyone but the government is the same as having no encryption because government intrusion is the obvious menace; who monitors the monitors. Financial transactions use encryption. Companies use encryption to safeguard files. What most governments want is backdoor access to encrypted messaging, which is slightly different but has similar repercussions.
If terrorists and state sponsored agents use encryption, whether it be Messages, WhatsApp, Signal, or any other, and he governments gain backdoor access, your and I will not have safe communication capability, and terrorists will simply move on to applications and encryptions that governments cannot access.
It’s win, lose, win, lose.
If the government wins backdoor access to encrypted messaged, we lose because criminals and terrorists will win by moving to a safer encrypted environment, and the governments trying to track down such ilk, lose anyway.
An outright ban on encryption makes no sense because it is used to secure data and its use is widespread; that toothpaste is not going back into the tube. It’s understandable why government agencies want access to encrypted messages, and even if given, criminals and terrorists simply move to a different brand of toothpaste elsewhere; perhaps even making their own.
In essence, everyone becomes less safe, and the government and citizens will not have increased benefit.
We can hope that saner minds in government will prevail, but there seems to be a shortage of those in Washington, the U.K., and elsewhere; especially where terrorists target. My fear is that this security apocalypse has already begin, definitely in the U.K., certainly with proponents in the U.S., so what can Apple do to maintain customer privacy and security?
So far as we know, Apple hat yet to cave into pressure from authorities even to help them with access. Apple even refused to help a family unlock their dead son’s iPad to retrieve files which supposedly contained his funeral wishes. If Apple does it for one, don’t they need to make themselves available to do it for all? If Apple helps a government entity retrieve encrypted or locked information from a device, don’t they have to do it for all?
I fear this coming apocalypse is closer than we may think, and all it would take to generate sufficient emotional outrage is an incident which becomes tragic, yet is one where Apple could have prevented it if access were given to authorities.
This isn’t over. More tragic incidents and catastrophes could cause citizens to panic and governments to act, but the encryption genie isn’t going back into the bottle, so lets hope that more sane minds are allowed to prevail.