U.S. government clashes with Apple over encryption

The New York Times:

In an investigation involving guns and drugs, the Justice Department obtained a court order this summer demanding that Apple turn over, in real time, text messages between suspects using iPhones.

Apple’s response: Its iMessage system was encrypted and the company could not comply.

Well this was inevitable. So is the government's beating of their dead horse.

The Justice Department wants Apple and other companies that use end-to-end encryption to comply with the same kind of wiretap orders as phone companies. Justice and some former law enforcement officials argue that consumers want investigators to have the ability to get wiretaps in the mobile, digital world if it means solving crimes.

“If you ask about wiretap functionality in the broad privacy context, you get one answer,” Mr. Terwilliger said. “If you ask it in the context of a guy with a loose nuke, or some kind of device, you get a different answer.”

In the eyes of the Feds, there's always some dude hiding in the shadows with a nuke. With Keifer Sutherland playing pretend in the mountains of Afghanistan now, rather than saving America from the brink of destruction on a weekly basis, there must be some other recourse. Naturally, the only way to possibly know is to have said dude's iMessages.

So, yeah, in this case, Apple should make it possible for the government to back door into the service to make sure that they catch the bad guys. No question.

Until the question becomes, "Well how do we truly know which ones are the bad guys?"

Is it just the guys we know about? How do we find out about the other ones? What if everyone is a potential guy with a nuke? Shouldn't we just watch them all? Just in case. Just for security. Don't mind us. Nothing to see here. Move along, Citizen. As much as I'm not fond of slopes and their startling ability to retain a certain significant slickness, I do find myself standing on the precipice.

Look, the idea of being obliterated in an instant by a weapon of mass destruction is not a pleasant one. I quite like the life I am living, and, despite some of its massive flaws, I wouldn't mind it continuing for the foreseeable future. Keeping destructive things out of the hands of those who feel significant indifference about my will to live seems like a pretty good idea.

Here's the rub: as much as I don't want to get all blowed up by some psycopath, I also don't want to lead a life where I feel the constant encroachment of the government upon my privacy. I don't want to live in a world where I forfeit my personal freedom for the sake of national security. Instances where that happens tend to stray far away from the original intent of what's best for the populace as a whole, and into the realm of satisfying the requirements of those in power to remain so. That type of leverage over individuals is a great way to ensure their subordination, even if only through the implication of knowledge. To exist merely for the sake of existing, constantly cognizant of your predetermined failure to comply with the status quo, is no existence I'm interested in maintaining.

Forgive my Orwellian indulgences. I by no means think that the U.S. is on some fixed path with the end goal of obliterating their citizens' right to privacy. I do truly believe that these government officials are well-intentioned individuals who have their compatriots' best interests in mind. But situations don't typically take a sudden turn for the worse. Governments don't just declare one day, "Suprise, motherfuckers! We gotcha. Guess what, now your rights are gone." Pieces are taken from here. From there. Little chinks in the armor over time compromise the structural integrity of the whole suit.

It's the slow erosion that worries me. You acquiesce to something that seems reasonable at the time, and it just becomes part of your life. You start to forget what things were like before. Each little affordance slowly molds your reality. It's a stark difference from suddenly waking up one morning, bleary-eyed, and gazing upon the unrecognizable world around you. What's scarier?

I have to side by those who see privacy as a fundamental human right. There will always be bad people, but we'll be remembered by how we treat the good ones.