Sunday, February 28, 2016

Eight Memorable Passages From Apple’s Fiery Response to the FBI

The Apple v. FBI debate seems to be one of the most important, long-lasting, and potentially game-changing threats to the liberty of US citizens, and people around the world.

The US has always struggled with how to balance government power and personal liberty.  Past breaches of human rights were to justified because of perceived risks to national physical or economic security.   The US constitution embraced slavery.  And in 1798, soon after it was ratified, the US passed the Alien and Sedition Act, because
"[a]s one Federalist in Congress declared, there was no need to 'invite hordes of Wild Irishmen, nor the turbulent and disorderly of all the world, to come here with a basic view to distract our tranquillity.'"
Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus.

In the Dred Scott decision
"the [Supreme] Court held that African Americans, whether enslaved or free, could not be American citizens and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court,[2][3] and that the federal government had no power to regulate slavery in the federal territories acquired after the creation of the United States."
There's a long history of abuses against Native Americans.

The Roosevelt Administration interned US citizens of Japanese descent during WW II.

There's Guantanamo and torture following the 9/11 attacks.

There are the thousands of civilian deaths and injuries due to our current drone attacks.

So I tend to be skeptical of the FBI's claims of national security when they pressure Apple to create a way to hack their own encryption.  I'm not all that trusting of Apple either in the long run, but in this case I'm more likely to support Apple's stand than, say, I would Goldman-Sachs and other financial institutions stands against government regulation.

But like probably most Americans, I don't really understand the details of this.  It's not as obvious as waterboarding.

So I offer this link to The Intercepts' post Eight Memorable Passages From Apple’s Fiery Response to the FBI.


  1. It really does seem like the FBI is less interested in getting the data through this case than in securing the precedent.

  2. I have to disagree. What is the terrible precedent that would be set if the government obtains the phone info of people who are (a) known terrorists, (b) have killed many people and (c) are dead, thus having no privacy rights? That future dead, murderous terrorists might similarly have their phones unlocked? I can't work up too much concern for protecting the rights of that class of individuals.

    1. Apple has already unlocked over 70 I Phones for various reasons so why is this all of a sudden a "problem"?

  3. Kathy, I'm sure you linked to the article. Read it again. It's not like Apple can just open this particular phone. They have encrypted phones so no one can get in. Even Apple. In this case, the FBI is telling them to set up a project to break their own encryption. Once they do that, the encryption is no longer good at all. Hackers will have a back door into everything. Oppressive (as well as relatively democratic) governments will have a way into spying on dissidents and anyone who bothers them.

    Go back and read the post carefully. I see this as a bad tradeoff - short term small gain for long term huge loss. The FBI seems to have more than enough information in this case. This is an easy way to get, they say, more. But it’s not clear how important the information is. But at the expense of exposing everyone’s data. And they’re own lack of cooperation with Apple in the beginning means they locked the phone themselves.

    It’s the FBI’s job to push for what they want, but it’s everyone else’s job to push back and make them prove that their short term need outweighs the long term costs. And we need to be more aware of those costs. Since you do come here regularly Kathy, I hope at least this post will cause you to find out more about this. My sense is that your reaction is what the FBI is counting on.

    1. Sorry, Steve, the post does not persuade me. It's a slippery-slope argument -- if we build it, they will misuse it later -- and more smoke than fire in my opinion. And I was seriously turned off by the smartass tone of the commentary, as though writing a brief with lots of incendiary sound bites is proof of the validity of the argument.

      Do we really believe that Apple can't unencrypt their own devices now? Do we really believe that Apple is taking this "principled" stand because it is a great defender of constitutional rights and not because its business model depends on people thinking they can trust Apple? (When we all know Apple is willing to sell all kinds of collected info about us to anybody with money to pay for it.) Personally I trust the US government more than I trust Apple (neither one 100%).

      I will concede that the FBI shouldn't have done whatever they did to sabotage their own access to the phone data. But doesn't this sort of fall under the heading of inevitable discovery? If we would have figured it out in the normal course of events, (i.e. if the FBI hadn't changed the password) then we should be allowed to use it as evidence, even if the actual moment of seizure was improper.


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