The Department of Justice has dropped its case against Apple. While encouraging, this news is not the end of the story. The FBI likely picked the wrong case to establish precedent for future backdoors, but the Department of Justice will likely find opportunities to pursue weakening security in the future. If their future targets don’t have the resources, resolve, or political clout that Apple has, we have cause to be concerned. As I write this, Senator Dianne Feinstein (the well known NSA defender) and Senator Richard Burr are pushing a bill that would penalize companies in Apple’s position for refusing to comply with court orders.
This issue is not going away and the details will vary case by case. It is important to begin to let our representatives know that we do not accept the false choice between safety and encryption. I expect to see more bills introduced and more debate over encryption’s role in the future. Decisions around these issues will shape our lives, rights, and the scope of government power for decades to come. Contact your representatives. Here’s the base letter I used to contact mine yesterday morning:
I am very concerned regarding the recent moves by law enforcement agencies, and comments from government officials, encouraging the weakening of encryption through the creation of “back doors”.
All security experts agree that back doors, once built for the sake of law enforcement, could not be kept from widespread exploitation by criminals, other nations, and abuses within our own government. Weakening the security of our devices will also make the United State’s powerful technology industry less competitive globally, as other nations will, reasonably, hold suspicion towards compromised technology.
Additionally, the use of encryption cannot be stopped, and is widespread throughout the world, where U.S. law has no claim. If terrorists cannot securely use a product out of the box, there are plenty of easily accessible ways for them to get ahold of encryption technology.
I was in High School when 9/11 happened and throughout my entire adult life I have witnessed the erosion of our civil liberties through permanent war powers, security measures in transportation, and government surveillance. The encryption debate is emblematic of this same drive for security at any costs. By allowing relatively small groups of terrorists to so effect our values and way of life is to let them win.
As encryption related issues are brought before you I urge you to vote against any weakening of encryption and security in our technology industry. Back doors may make law enforcement’s life easier (a goal our Bill of Rights explicitly fights), but it will not actually make us safer. Trust those who know how technology works and maintain skepticism of those who ignore reality and promise magical solutions that will somehow give government access and maintain security. Please, vote against weakening encryption.
It took me about 20 minutes to write this and send slightly adjusted versions of it to different representatives and elected officials.1 As crazy as it sounds, this is the way representation works, so it’s time to make it work for us. While the news cycle moves on it is time to build a moat around our rights and let the people in a position to pass laws know that encryption is important to us.
Senator Feinstein’s website would not accept messages from people outside of California, so if you are out there let her know how you feel. ↩