Friday, March 18, 2016

UNLOCK THE DAMN PHONE

The internet loves John Oliver. He's smart. He tackles both highly visible and obscure subjects with ease and he seems to be having fun while he's doing it. He curses. Lots. He's British and, as Americans seem to have decided, Brits are always smarter. So when Oliver says that it's a bad idea for Apple to decrypt the phone of an honest to God, no question about it, shoot innocent people dead terrorist, the internet nods its head and agrees. Here's the whole bit.

Pfui. Oliver is wrong. Simply wrong.

Forget for the moment that the owner of the phone has given permission. (Remember, the phone in question was a work phone and not the personal phone of the terrorist.) Forget for the moment that there's a warrant and that the warrant does not ask for a permanent back door but simply assistance in the opening of a specific phone. Just think about this. As Apple has said, and Oliver himself repeats in his piece, it would take a few guys working on it a few days to decrypt the phone.

A few guys and a few days. And, according to more than one expert, those guys wouldn't even have to be working at Apple. So we're arguing over a work product that would take the same time to produce as it would take good coders to fill out their NCAA March Madness brackets.

I get it. There's a prosecutor in New York with over 100 phones belonging to murderers and pedophiles and rapists that he would like decrypted. If Apple did this once, they might be required to assist law enforcement in bringing down hundreds, maybe thousands of bad guys who use encrypted phones to hide their terrorist intents, their pedophilia, their stalking and their serial rapes.

Wait a minute. Thousands of terrorists, pedophiles, and rapists might be captured or successfully prosecuted if it were possible to decrypt their phones?

Who was it that said, "[a] strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means."

Thomas Jefferson.

Who was it that said, "[The insurrection] in nearly one-third of the States had subverted the whole of the laws . . . Are all the laws, but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?"

Abraham Lincoln

Who was it that said, "The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact."

Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson. Not as famous as the other two guys, but the actual source of the ubiquitous 'not a suicide pact' quote.

So we have to decide. Are we a nation of both public and private transparency, with enough flexibility in the law to protect ourselves? Or are we a nation of dark places and hidden, untouchable, safe and secure purveyors of evil? It seems to me to be disingenuous to hold the belief that Snowden and Assange are heroes, that our government doesn't have the right to keep secrets, and at the same time believe that those who plan to destroy our civil society have the right to keep their secrets completely protected from discovery, even when there is sufficient probable cause for a court to issue a warrant.

Unlock the damn phone.

2 comments:

  1. After today's events in Brussels how can the CEOs of Apple sleep nights ? If Silicon Valley is the next target ,will there be a change of policy or will profit destroy civilization ...again !

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    1. I don't even see the need to bring that into it. It's evidence in a crime. If the evidence had been in an apartment, you'd go to the landlord, show him the warrant, and he'd open the door for you. That simple.

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