Here we go again. Just a few days after a former FBI agent argued that the new iOS 8 encryption would cause somebody to die, a Department of Justice boss upped the ante. At a meeting on October 1, Deputy Attorney General James Cole told a room full off Apple executives that iPhone encryption would cause a child to die. A child!
This is a pretty bonkers thing for anyone to say. It is a very bonkers thing for the second-ranking official at the Department of Justice to say. And according to The Wall Street Journal, the Apple executives who were the victims of Cole's sensational take on privacy and technology felt that way too:
The meeting last month ended in a standoff. Apple executives thought the dead-child scenario was inflammatory. They told the government officials law enforcement could obtain the same kind of information elsewhere, including from operators of telecommunications networks and from backup computers and other phones, according to the people who attended.
Because of course it can. In fact, the former FBI agent who made similarly inflammatory remarks in a Washington Post column a few weeks ago had to walk it back. The newspaper issued a correction to the opinion piece and removed the paragraph claiming that iOS encryption could lead to death. This was a sensible thing to do. While it's certainly possible that a bad thing could happen as a result of better encryption on phones, anything is possible. Bad things happen for all kinds of reasons.
Police can still gain access to that data. It's just much harder than it used to be. Encryption improves privacy, and that's a good thing. It also improves security. So while it might make law enforcement's jobs tougher at times, it's important to stand up for Constitutional rights at times like this. Sensationalism never made anybody feel safer. [WSJ via 9to5 Mac]
Image by Michael Hession