The privacy meme is rather simple. Apple and other technology giants use encryption to seal files and communications. For example, Messages is sealed by encryption, end-to-end. Your iPhone can be locked down so even the F.B.I. struggles to find a way in. What will go wrong?
If iPhone, iPad, and Mac customers have unfettered access to encrypt their files and communications, then criminals, hackers, and government spooks have the same rights, but less access to your information. Encryption, at least as it works today, is that good. Use FileVault on your Mac to encrypt files and if you lose your password and recovery key, all that data becomes inaccessible to you, criminals, the F.B.I., and probably to God.
iPhones and iPads already are encrypted, but, oddly enough, not their backups in iCloud. Apple has access to your iCloud information, ostensibly to help customers when they forget their passwords.
All those encrypted, protected, and private files are under attack. F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray on encrypted devices:
It can’t be a sustainable end state for there to be an entirely unfettered space that’s utterly beyond law enforcement for criminals to hide
On one hand, that seems plausible and makes sense. The F.B.I even goes after hackers and criminals in other countries, but often remains stymied in the good old U.S. of A. thanks to Apple’s efforts (and, to be fair, others) to maintain value in personal privacy.
Again, I understand the sentiment. My fear is that Apple’s stance on your privacy is completely untenable and the world’s authoritarian governments– and let’s toss the U.S. onto that pile of shamelessness– will win these battles and eventually the war on encryption.
What does that mean for iPhone, iPad, and Mac customers?
Assume that world governments create laws which require Apple, Google, Facebook, and others to provide a back door to their encrypted products; a key which the governments can then use to infiltrate your devices for whatever purpose deemed legal, and perhaps some that are illegal but they do it anyway.
First, your privacy is up for grabs and having it breached by authorities is little more than a step-by-step battle with Apple and others of similar privacy inspired ilk.
Second, the very criminals, terrorists, hackers, and outside government spooks that the F.B.I. and authorities want to track and capture– via their encrypted information– will move to another level of encryption. Private encryption, if you will. Roll your own encryption. In the end, your private information will be less safe, authoritarian governments still will not be able to track and capture all the bad guys, and fewer of earth’s citizens will be safer in that world than they are now.
I want Apple to succeed and become the beacon of freedom, yet I fear where Apple stands today is a stance alone, and untenable in future authoritarian regimes around the world and here at home.