How the U.S. government’s War on Privacy provoked a backlash

“The FBI’s underhand attempt to get a judge to order Apple to make iPhones less secure is largely backfiring,” Trevor Timm reports for The Guardian. “The Obama administration is now taking heat from all sides in the debate over whether they can force Apple to open a backdoor in its encryption – despite there being no law that requires it.”

“The FBI’s primary case against Apple was once considered about as sympathetic for the government as it gets: the original phone in question belonged to one of the deceased San Bernardino terrorists, and was owned by a city which had already given permission to break into it,” Timm reports. “But thankfully, the public now realizes that this case is about much more than just ‘one phone’ (as the FBI once tried to pretend, before admitting that the case would set a precedent that would allow them to break into thousands of them).”

Timm reports, “What really is at stake is the future of internet security, and whether the government can force tech companies to become arms of the state.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote on March 4th:

It’s amazing that the U.S. government calculated that they could get away with this. Americans are not dumbed-down nearly enough yet, it seems.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

SEE ALSO:
Apple: ‘Government misunderstands the technology’ involved in demanding they decrypt an iPhone – March 16, 2016
Apple: The FBI’s demand is unconstitutional – March 16, 2016
Apple says U.S. ‘Founders would be appalled’ by DOJ order – March 16, 2016
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham finally talks to tech experts, switches side to Apple vs. FBI – March 15, 2016
Obama administration begins to realize it may have made a big time mistake going after Apple over iPhone encryption – March 15, 2016
Tech companies join Apple to fight back against government overreach, prep to expand encryption of user data – March 15, 2016
Google’s Eric Schmidt is joining the Pentagon’s new How Apple realized it was at war with the FBI: The DOJ was poised to launch PR campaign designed to pull the public’s heartstrings – March 15, 2016
Richard Clarke: U.S. government more interested in setting legal precedent than solving the problem of one iPhone – March 15, 2016
Obama criticized for ‘tone deaf’ comments at SXSW regarding Apple’s fight against government overreach – March 14, 2016
The U.S. government’s fight with Apple could backfire big time – March 14, 2016
John Oliver just smartly explained Apple’s fight against U.S. government overreach – March 14, 2016
U.S. Congressman Darrell Issa at SXSW: ‘Hold your iPhone a little bit higher, so the FBI can hear us better’ – March 14, 2016
Obama pushes for iPhone back door; Congressman Issa blasts Obama’s ‘fundamental lack of understanding’ – March 12, 2016
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch backs U.S. government overreach on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert – March 11, 2016
Former CIA Director: FBI wants to dictate iPhone’s operating system – March 11, 2016
U.S. government takes cheap shots at Apple – March 11, 2016
FBI warns it could demand Apple’s iPhone code and secret electronic signature – March 10, 2016
California Democrat Diane Feinstein backs U.S. government overreach over Apple – March 10, 2016
Snowden: U.S. government’s claim it can’t unlock San Bernardino iPhone is ‘bullshit’ – March 10, 2016
Apple: The law already exists that protects us from U.S. government demands to hack iPhone – February 26, 2016
Apple said to be prepping iOS version that even it can’t hack – February 25, 2016
Apple could easily lock rights-trampling governments out of future iPhones – February 20, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook lashes out at Obama administration over encryption, bemoans White House lack of leadership – January 13, 2016
Short-timer U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder blasts Apple for protecting users’ privacy against government overreach – September 30, 2014
Obama administration demands master encryption keys from firms in order to conduct electronic surveillance against Internet users – July 24, 2013

28 Comments

  1. Apple is and always has been the consumer’s champion and nothing will change that.

    Picture the ramifications and effects of an Apple customer boycott and revolt – Think Different.

    1. Also Apple is correct that the government is not pitting Security vs Privacy, but one kind of Security against Privacy, Security, and Freedom of the private sector to not kneecap their own products or have to do government’s work for it.

      The NSA knowns how to unlock unlockable phones using expensive techniques. If the phone contains invaluable information then the government should expends its own resources to get that information, not get the information at Apple’s and hundreds of millions of customers expense.

      1. For clarity, the expensive techniques involve essentially peeling back layers of hardware to allow direct manipulation and access to memory and control circuits. Suppressing the password counter, for instance, would allow unlimited password tries. Its just expensive to do.

        Even if Apple puts the password count limit into the secure enclave hardware (so no software update could remove that security feature) the government still has a shot of unlocking the phone if it is important enough to spend a few million dollars.

    2. Here’s something for you Americans to ponder.

      1. Apple gets their way, you all win. Now law enforcement can’t really access data on iPhones, and Apple ends up making it even harder for the NSA, etc. to get in.
      2. The AWA is abolished.
      3. Legal precedent is set, and companies can’t be ordered to break into their own products.
      4. A 9/11-like attack happens after these latter, but this time it’s even bigger. 20,000 Americans are killed in Los Angeles via a terrorist attack.

      —–

      I keep saying this and I’ll say it again:

      Apple does NOT CARE ABOUT YOU. They only care primarily about money. They are a corporation, period, end of story. To prove this point, phone them when you’re sick and ask for help. Phone them when you’re broke and ask them for a new computer. Phone them when the country is being attacked. You’ll be talking to an empty telephone. Phone them when 20,000 people die in a terrorist attack and ask them to get access to an iPhone that belonged to one of the terrorists? Where does a person draw the line? You see the problem…

      Apple has no business in law enforcement. They are not experts in national security. They are not experts in government administration. They are not experts in law enforcement. They also don’t have the same security clearances and access to information as government officials like FBI agents.

      The bottom line is, a lot of stuff on most people’s smartphones would never even qualify to be classified.

      It’s absurd and irresponsible of Apple to try and strike fear in the citizenry like this, and particuarly since before 2014, Apple didn’t have the “guard dog” in place to thwart law enforcement. And it’s simply a weak, hypothetical argument that Apple advances that their solution to provide access to the FBI COULD, MIGHT, PERHAPS MAY, get into the hands of terrorits or “bad boogie men” in the future at some point.

      This is a fantastic argument coming from a highly secretive, do the impossible company. And it is simply not clear in any fashion whatsoever that any damage would come to anyone if such a thing circulated. Again, where were all of you pre-2014 running scared? Where were you when the hacker hacked into OS X in 30 seconds and said it was like an unlocked farm shed?

      If the average person only knew how many threats to national security occur everyday, some serious, they’d be alarmed. The only way to stop terrorism is to stop it before it happens. And the defence community needs the framework and tools to do this job.

      1. You are aware that if the US Goverment gets acesss then so Will China, Russia, Iran etc!!!! It will be requested and you think the Goverment is secure to leaks!!! May i mention to you wiki leaks and Edward Snowden.

      2. The real threat to people is the Goverments and religous organisations. They have their own agends and you as a person are very low down on them. If they wanted too overnight they could creat a world with no poverty free healthcare, no starvation, free shelter But they have agendas some set by the global elite like the Bilderberg group, power and money and greed!!!

      3. dswe,
        The “bad boogie men” really exist. Let’s put governments (yours and mine) to one side for the moment. Private hackers have stolen millions of dollars in intellectual property, to say nothing of the millions stolen via identity theft. (The “millions” may actually be “billions.”) For every US citizen who has been directly affected by political terrorism since 12 September 2001, there are at least 100,000 who have been affected by data theft. Most of us have had to exchange credit or debit cards multiple times because we did business with a store that got hacked. This is not just a personal problem for a few of us; the entire national economy depends on the secure exchange of financial data.

        The only thing that is not making it much, much worse is the fact that most important data is now encrypted. We weren’t running scared pre-2014 for a couple of reasons:

        1. The hacker problem was not so well known before the attacks on the IRS, Target, T.J. Maxx, etc. Hackers then were less sophisticated, and people were not worried about the threat for the same reason that people pre-1894 weren’t worried about auto accidents. We all know now how much we are at risk. If Jennifer Lawrence can have her private pictures splashed all over cyberspace, anyone can. If a major motion picture studio (or the US Government) can have most of its private emails posted online, so can we. We now know about the threat and know that strong encryption is our best protection.

        2. Snowden and Assange were targeting government with their disclosures, but they showed that everyone was at risk. Even for those of us who trust our own government (as I basically do, although I lack your blind faith), the disclosures suggested that other governments—and sophisticated private criminals—could do the same thing. It would take astonishing naiveté to think that they are not doing everything they find technically possible. However often it gets violated, the Bill of Rights provides at least some protection from government action that many foreign nationals do not have. No country has any formal legal protection for non-citizens overseas, and no criminal respects victim rights. You may trust the Russian and Chinese governments (and organized criminals from those countries) to protect American lives and property. I don’t. Like most Americans, I look for protection to strong encryption.

        The criminals and terrorists do not need Apple’s encryption to do their business. There are plenty of aftermarket apps and services available to them. The encryption on iPhones only matters to ordinary non-techie citizens who will only use the default security on their phones because that is all they know how to use. Taking their strong encryption away will endanger them without inconveniencing the bad guys.

        You say that it is entirely hypothetical that the hack will leak if Apple is forced to hack its own products. Why would you assume that? This can’t be limited to just one iPhone. The United States has thousands of law enforcement agencies and every one of them potentially has an iPhone in its possession that it needs to hack to further an ongoing investigation. The New York City Police Department alone has well over a hundred.

        Roughly half of all US marriages end in divorce, and every one of those divorces has two people who might be seeking a court order to hack the phone of the other. There is no “national security” exception to the Fourth Amendment, so if any phone may be hacked by court order, all of them can.

        Even if I trusted the FBI to keep the hacking technique and digital signature secret, I do not trust that every deputy in Podunk County can keep a secret. I’ve worked with too many deputies over the years to believe that 100% are reliable. It would take 100% for the secret to remain secret; 99.99% will not do. So, a leak is hardly hypothetical.

        No, Apple may not care much about me. It is a for-profit corporation interested in rewarding its owners. However, I think it cares about me and the real dangers—to my personal privacy, to public safety, to our national economy—more than you do.

        1. I can appreciate your lengthy post but you haven’t really advanced anything.

          It is 100% hypothetical that whatever Apple does to access the data will weaken security and increase threats to national security. It has not happened yet and it’s unclear what would be done to access the data.

          Also, you’re speaking of breaking encryption. I’m not sure you understand what Apple would be doing and what the FBI is requiring. They’re requiring that Apple remove the erase function so they can use their brute force attacks and otherwise tonget the data.

          They are not getting Apple to “break encryption” in a way you seem to imply.

          Law enforcement will need a court order for search and seizure no matter what now, and in the future. If they have one, then they can get things like an iPhone and go about getting data from it. This isn’t about them trying to change that legislation. This isn’t some cart blanche outcome they’re seeking. They’ll have to proceed on a case by case basis and pursuade a judge with reasonable cause everytime.

          Finally, your comments about the Russians and Chinese show that Apple’s fearmongering had worked. No, nothing had really much since 2014. It wasn’t that long ago. Groups like Anonymous have been operating for years, viruses have been around forever.

          What Apple is being asked to do is undo their purposely induced thwarting of law enforcement’s ability to get data access to an iPhone. There is ZERO evidence that this would materially increase threats to national security. It is not enough to simply state that something may or will happen. It must be demonstrated.

  2. Another reason to get rid of the DOJ/FBI/DEA admin managers. Headline “Fast & Furious guns tracked to police killings, ‘El Chapo’ hideout, ATF confirms” article body portion ““[The ATF] and the [Justice] Department deeply regret that firearms associated with Operation Fast and Furious have been used by criminals in the commission of violent crimes, particularly crimes resulting the death of civilians and law enforcement officers,” assistant attorney general Peter Kadzik said in a Tuesday letter to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa and House Oversight and Government Reform chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah,…”

  3. We can all thank Edward Snowden for kicking us all in the ass and letting us know that government is spying on its citizens. Apple has now taken the torch and is running with.

      1. I would love to have a version of the Think Different commercial with nothing but heroes who stood up to government for individual freedom, including Snowden and Tim Cook along with Mandela and Martin Luther King.

  4. Bah! Once Herr Trump gets in, there’ll no more of this pussyfooting around by Obama, and messing around with courtrooms. It’ll be “you can either make this easy for us, or we can make it hard for you.”

    1. That’s Herr Donald Drump…

      John Oliver was on Colbert last night. There is something about being on an ADD roller coaster show, he couldn’t really get the message across. kinda, but Colbert didn’t help at all.

      Colbert: “I just assume the government is watching all the time”

      Oliver: “That’s totalitarianism.”

      That’s pretty much how far they got. :-/

        1. He would know if he were American or Canadian, Gollum. Did you note the reference above by dswe to “you Americans?” I think we have a lot of overseas traffic on this site that is anxious to tell US citizens how we should interpret our own Constitution and statutes. An American financial system with weak encryption will be an easy target and put us at a disadvantage to countries that have the real thing.

    1. I suppose that depends on how access permissions are made in the management of iPhones. Does Apple’s system allow for Enterprise level password override?

      1. Yes. If the county had set Mobile Device Management (MDM) on the iPhone, they would have been able to get in without bothering Apple. But, they didn’t do that, and now it’s too late. Just like the way they stupidly reset the iCloud password, preventing any chance of getting a new iCloud backup to automatically run.

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