Sunday, 28 February 2016

The state is our servant not our keeper

With permission from @MartinShovel
I think I need to make this clear.

There are always measures that can make us safer - ultimately if the "state" was to ensure that all citizens were monitored in all they do, 24 hours a day, at home, at work, in bed, on the toilet, everything, then there is a good chance that we will all be safer and no crimes committed. It would need a heck of a lot of watching the watchers, but it could be done.

The real question is whether you want to live in such a world.

I do not.

So, it all comes down to where one draws the line.

Let me be clear, the "state" is our servant - they work for us. They are our servant and not our keeper.

I have to agree with Apple, that the requests made of them are going too far. It would set a dangerous precedent that allows any US government agency to order any amount of assistance in decoding and extracting any information, and once we have that it could easily stretch to any government in any country. It is so "slippery slope" is dazzles with the shine it gives off.

What is worse is that criminals can use end to end encryption and enjoy privacy if they wish. Such precedent only impacts the normal people, the law abiding citizens, you and me...

The US has the constitution, and in the UK we have some fundamental rights which include some privacy rights. But whatever country you are in, there is a battle of the state wanting more police and surveillance and the people wanting some right to privacy for normal, non-criminal, life.

I, and A&A, are in support of Apple's stand in this matter.

12 comments:

  1. I'm not sure I agree with you. As I understand it a warrant has been issued for this specific case, so I'm not sure what the problem with Apple helping is. Clearly there is an issue of the cost to the company, but beyond that?

    I agree that without a warrant this would be unjustified.

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    1. Yes, people are missing the point - this is a case that will, if allowed, set a legal precedent in the US allowing the FBI and a queue of other law enforcement that have a pile of phones they want unlocked to make the same order citing this one. It will also make it much harder for Apple to resist orders from UK, other EU countries, China, Syria, etc, etc. It will potentially allow much wider orders as well.

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    2. Lots more relevant context about the details behind the headlines, and the underlying reasons why this is such an unreasonable request, at http://www.zdziarski.com/blog/?p=5645

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    3. The issue is not whether a legal order exists, but who the order is aimed at and what it requires them to do.

      What we normally expect in such situations is for an order to be sent to a company, such as a telephone provider, asking them to provide information that they already possess, such as call records. But in this case the target of the order (Apple) does not actually HAVE the data, or any means to access it. The data is on an encrypted iPhone which is already in the possession of law enforcement. What Apple are being asked to do is provide a modified version of iOS — in other words, write NEW software, using their own engineers, (possibly) at their own expense — that will make it easier for the FBI to attempt to decrypt the data. It's the difference between ordering a bank to open their vault, and ordering the locksmith that installed it to manufacture new custom-designed lock picks that will help the police to crack it.

      Now, I can certainly understand why the court doesn't think this is a particularly unusual or onerous request; it is quite possible that making a few modifications to iOS aren't necessarily that much more difficult than a telco needing to query its database to supply the requested call records. But I can also understand why more libertarian-minded people are horrified by the idea of a private business — and by extension, any private individual, since there is little legal distinction between the two — being ordered to render arbitrary assistance and expertise to a legal investigation that they themselves are not a party to.

      If the government can legally enforce this order against Apple, there is potentially no limit to the kinds of assistance they could commandeer from members of the public. Perhaps the developers of Tor or GnuPG could be forced to write modified versions of their products to place on a suspect's machine, or Linus Torvalds himself could be required to introduce buffer overflow vulnerabilities into the kernel. Perhaps the FBI could give up hiring agents altogether, and just pressgang local private investigators to do the job for them. Even if the orders only pertain to a specific investigation, and the entities concerned were compensated for their time, it's not difficult to see why people consider this a serious civil liberties issue.

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    4. Thanks mgboyes for the link, that article makes it a lot clearer. The trouble is, most people either won't read something that long and/or won't understand the excellent points it makes. So the general public will probably disagree with Apple, as I was inclined to initially (I have now changed my mind).

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  2. It's time to end the panic, the latent 'state of emergency' defence supporting a continuing steam of excuses from panicked governments for imposing increasing levels of damage to our way of life. And this can't be justified forever. By _ignoring_ the terrorists in one sense - which equates to defying them - they don't get the win that is the removal of our freedoms. Of course we continue to hunt down criminals but they don't get an opportunity to dictate public policy. Surely this has to simply end?

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    1. Yes, of course. But (a) there are lots of people who do very nicely out of a climate of fear, and they make campaign contributions; and (b) whichever politician was mostly recently responsible for removing some pointless control will get crucified by the Daily Mail next time there's an incident. So nobody in power has an incentive to act sensibly.

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    2. I remember much more sensible behaviour when the IRA were active with terrorist acts in the UK. Or maybe since I was only in my teens or younger, I just didn't see all the rubbish?

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    3. There was plenty of 'rubbish' back then such as beating confessions out of convenient 'suspects' and powers of detention without trial. They just didn't have the technology for mass surveillance but I'm certain they would have liked to have done something similar. All politicians want ever increasing powers and their only concern is self interest. Don't be surprised if a major future terrorist attack is instigated and managed by the likes of MI6 to justify more anti-privacy laws, if it hasn't been already. Not that we'll ever be able to prove it.

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  3. The most farcical episode from those days, early 1990s, was the situation where IRA leaders were not permitted to be heard speaking on the BBC, so the BBC just had an actor repeating whatever the person in question was saying. Thus simply making a monkey out of the government.

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  4. The thing about removing pointless controls and politicians then getting stick should anything bad happen, this is the advantage of having measures being made time-limited, so they simply expire and no-one is responsible for ending them.

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  5. Bad things will always happen, regardless of what security measures are put in place, to spy on us(official line protect us) that is a sad fact , I like most do not want to live in a surveillance society , Why should any service provider bow to those that are supposed to work for us, in our interests and not their own,or connected corporations, ???? Screw the fbi, on this apple thing, there is nothing but an educated guess that there is anything worth the hassle on that i phone, but it isn't really about that is it? that is the bs they want us to believe to justify their actions, it don't justify anything

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