Last week I offered my somewhat cynical view that the recent dispute between Apple and the FBI had as much to do with money as it did with national security. Apple wanted out of the data recovery business and law enforcement agencies didn’t want to have to pay for what they have been getting for free for years.
I wrote that a company whose software I use has had the ability to access iPhones running iOS 8 for over a year and offers this service to law enforcement only. The FBI had just announced that it was dropping its motion to require Apple to provide a “backdoor” because it had found a “third party company” that believed it could access the data. My speculation that this was the same company was confirmed the following day when the FBI acknowledged that Cellebrite was the company they were using to access the iphone running iOS 9.
Hours after the FBI cancelled its motion with Apple, Brussels was attacked. And just yesterday Pakistan was attacked, although at this point, it appears these two attacks are unrelated. As was expected, several members of congress have renewed their efforts to eliminate encryption even while acknowledging they have no idea if access to decrypted communications would have made a difference.
These and other statements have been attributed to a lead member of the House “Intelligence” committee. As part of that intelligence has anybody explained exactly how the government would be able to prevent data from being encrypted? Are any of them familiar with a program called PGP(Pretty Good Privacy) which has been around since 1991?
Encryption is not a new concept and it is being heavily used by many of us every day. Ever bought anything online? If so, check the website URL and you can expect to see that it has changed from http: to https: – that “s” means the site is secure and the data is encrypted.
Most of us would agree that we want our credit card information encrypted but seem to care less about our email. Yet, isn’t the right to communicate privately one of the corner stones of our freedom? A first class letter mailed through our postal system can’t be opened without a search warrant so why should our email deserve less protection?
Even if you feel you are willing to give up some of your privacy rights to feel more secure, how would that be accomplished? There are numerous free encryption programs available online and it would be virtually impossible for any government or agency to either shut them down or require them to provide the government with a “backdoor”.
Any attempt to do so would create the same argument that people opposed to gun control make. If you make encryption illegal or ineffective, only the government and criminals will have it.
Allison Goodman is the President of eDiscovery Inc., a consulting firm that provides electronic discovery consulting and digital forensic services to law firms and corporate counsel nationwide. Allison can be followed on Twitter @ediscoveryinc