Encryption

Apple CEO Tim Cook Pushes Back on Government Efforts to Stymie Private Encryption

Weakening encryption "has a chilling effect on our First Amendment rights and undermines our country's founding principles."

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Some modest progress was made against the encroachments on privacy by the national security surveillance state with the passage of the USA Freedom Act yesterday. But citizens can't count on Congress to protect their privacy, so they should take that responsibliity into their own hands. Fortunately, private companies are beginning to defy government snoops and offer their customers data encryption services. For example, Facebook rolled out a feature earlier this week that enables its users to shield their communications using PGP encryption.

Yesterday, during a video speech at the Electronic Privacy Information Center Apple CEO Tim Cook fiercely defended citizen privacy. From TechCrunch

"Like many of you, we at Apple reject the idea that our customers should have to make tradeoffs between privacy and security," Cook opened. "We can, and we must provide both in equal measure. We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy. The American people demand it, the constitution demands it, morality demands it."…

"There's another attack on our civil liberties that we see heating up every day — it's the battle over encryption. Some in Washington are hoping to undermine the ability of ordinary citizens to encrypt their data," said Cook.

"We think this is incredibly dangerous. We've been offering encryption tools in our products for years, and we're going to stay on that path. We think it's a critical feature for our customers who want to keep their data secure. For years we've offered encryption services like iMessage and FaceTime because we believe the contents of your text messages and your video chats is none of our business."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been waging a war on "pervasive encryption," painting it as an enabler of terrorism. Every security researcher and logical human being on the planet understands that this is ridiculous. And Cook is one of them.

"If you put a key under the mat for the cops, a burglar can find it, too. Criminals are using every technology tool at their disposal to hack into people's accounts. If they know there's a key hidden somewhere, they won't stop until they find it," Cook continued.

"Removing encryption tools from our products altogether, as some in Washington would like us to do, would only hurt law-abiding citizens who rely on us to protect their data. The bad guys will still encrypt; it's easy to do and readily available." …

"Now, we have a deep respect for law enforcement, and we work together with them in many areas, but on this issue we disagree. So let me be crystal clear — weakening encryption, or taking it away, harms good people that are using it for the right reasons. And ultimately, I believe it has a chilling effect on our First Amendment rights and undermines our country's founding principles." …

"We shouldn't ask our customers to make a tradeoff between privacy and security. We need to offer them the best of both," Cook wrapped up. "Ultimately, protecting someone else's data protects all of us."

Absolutely right.

Hat tip Richard Rohde.

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72 responses to “Apple CEO Tim Cook Pushes Back on Government Efforts to Stymie Private Encryption

  1. Most of it sounds like convenient hand waving in the direction of their largest competitor in the online services and mobile markets.

    Maybe he means it, but with Apple’s hype-train and mediocre online security history, I’ll withhold any high-fives for the time being.

    1. ^^This^^

      Not to mention the ubiquitous; we believe in the customer’s right to privacy until we or our shareholders decide it somehow it affects our carbon footprint. Then the customers or shareholders, whomever we like less, can fuck off.

    2. Thirded.

      I think Apple’s “public stances” on issues are entirely of convenience, and for the sake of marketing

      I have no doubt Apple, like Microsoft, will willingly hand over encryption keys on demand, so long as they can continue pretending that “personal security” is a grave concern.

      Security theater is just as popular in Technology as it is in Airports.

      1. Fourthed.

        Of all the people to talk with authority on this, Tim Cook has to be among the least credible, along with Satya Nadella and his lieutenants.

  2. I trust Facebook less than I do the government. I have to be there for business purposes or I wouldn’t be there at all.

    1. You are fucking insane.

      1. OTOH

        “An awkward American college professor and a smooth Spanish matador are just friends?right up to the first kiss.”

        Insanity has it uses.

      2. Actually, he makes a weird kind of sense. Facebook relatively small, driven by a (relatively simple) profit motive, and has no reason to consider a page-holder’s wants. The government, by contrast, is a huge, sprawling mess, animated by multiple, often conflicting, agendas, and is at least supposed to PRETEND to care about its subjects (I mean Citizens) (no I don’t). The government may be marginally more “trustworthy” diml;y because it might easily be decades before it notices you exist.

        No, I don’t mean any of that to be comforting.

        1. Zuckertroops are being immediately dispatched to your locations, unless you turned that setting off in your control panel.

        2. Conversely – Facebook is less threatening *because* there’s no illusion that it gives a damn about page-holders except in aggregate. Pageholders are not customers of Facebook and as long as you understand that you can deal with them appropriately.

          Even if, ultimately, by leaving.

          Government on the other hand, will grind you into dust without ever noticing you were there – but try to leave and they’ll be all over your arse.

        3. I am whoring my books. That is where the johns with money are.

      3. You are fucking insane.

        This has never been in doubt.

    2. At least Facebook can’t send armed goons to break into your home at night, destroy and steal your property, kidnap your family, and kill you if you make a fuss.

      1. How would you know? Because somebody posts that on *Facebook*?

        1. I don’t use that stupid shit. My wife is on it enough for both of us and then some.

          1. My point was that Facebook controls Facebook – so if Facebook’s goons are breaking down the doors, anyone posting that on Facebook would get it take down immediately.

            Gotta preserve the corporate state by any means necessary!

            1. So, the joke is funnier now that I’ve explained it, right?

            2. MY point is that I do not trust them not to hand over my info to the government no matter what it promises. I know the government’s going to come after my records from Facebook. Facebook has assured me they won’t hand them over, but they have no reason to be trusted. Knife in the back, knife in the front. I can see the government coming and brace myself.

              1. Facebook has not assured you of any such thing.

                Facebook *can’t* assure of that because Facebook is well aware of the existence of the Third Party Doctrine rules.

                Which is one of the reasons Facebook is offering encryption – that they don’t control. So that when the government comes by with a subpoena they can hand over your data, encrypted, and shrug their shoulders when asked for a key.

                1. Oh, my. I see the source of your distress. I used the word “assure” instead of something more precise, like “attempt to bamboozle ‘the hapless idjits’ with ‘assure’-like language.”

                  I apologize for the microaggression.

                  1. Well, I *was* interested in one of your books.

                    But if this is anything like your professional writing the I think I’ll pass.

                    1. I thought it was friendly banter between two people who mostly agree.

                    2. And for what it’s worth, I am not *here* to sell anything. I’m trying to find an anchor between “You owe me your money because FYTW” and “This country needs to be restored to God and there ought to be a law against dildos.” (I heard that once.)

                    3. A law outlawing cops?

                      I like it.

    3. You don’t trust Jeffrey Dahmer to protect you from John Wayne Gacey? (And why does Jeffrey Dahmer only have two names instead of the usual three?)

      1. Theodore Roosevelt Bundy?

      2. Ooooh, you got the point. *smooches*

        Jeffrey BuffaloBill Dahmer.

    4. I trust Facebook less than I do the government.

      This demonstrates the power of propaganda and indoctrination.

  3. In, you know, *important* news.

    FO4 release trailer just . . . uh, released.

    Boston confirmed – shot of the USS Consitution.

    No release date – probably have to wait for the E3 announcement.

  4. “So let me be crystal clear ? weakening encryption, or taking it away, harms good people that are using it for the right reasons. And ultimately, I believe it has a chilling effect on our First Amendment rights and undermines our country’s founding principles.”

    All this talk about our rights, the Constitution, the First Amendment, and our country’s founding principles makes me scared.

    Is Tim Cook part of the Tea Party Militia Movement?

    Have the Koch brothers gotten to him, too?!

  5. Now, we have a deep respect for law enforcement, and we work together with them in many areas,

    When will we be rid of this noxious boilerplate ass-licking?

    1. It’s the modern form of protection money.

      1. More like the rosary:

        Say 10 “I support the popo” and 20 “the government is us” to absolve your bad-thought sins of the day..

  6. “Like many of you, we at Apple reject the idea that our customers should have to make tradeoffs between privacy and security,” Cook opened

    1. The progressives in the audience must have been shitting their cages.

      Or maybe it doesn’t mean anything to them if it’s coming from a fanboy.

      1. So, the rest of that that the NSA sympathizing squirrels cut off.

        This is the terms our ideological opponents have framed the debate in.

        But we’re not trading (blanket) privacy for (blanket) security – we’re being forced to trade blanket-privacy for security from a limited class of threats while making ourselves more vulnerable to a different set of threats.

        But IRL, privacy is just one tool used to obtain security. And that’s the line he should have been pushing.

        1. we’re being forced to trade blanket-privacy for a kabuki theater of security from a limited class of threats while making ourselves more vulnerable to a different set of threats.

          FIFY.

          Terrorists show up for interviews with federal agents repeatedly and pass by otherwise unmolested before they commit acts of terrorism.

          Encryption and/or security on the corpse of privacy isn’t even the choice being proposed.

  7. Here is the thing with encryption. If the police get a proper warrant to read your emails and they are encrypted, you have to turn over the key or be held in contempt of court. And that is a perfectly proper rule. If the police have a proper warrant giving them the key to your encrypted data is no different than unlocking the door to a storage shed they have a warrant to search.

    So encryption does not hinder proper law enforcement. All encryption does is make it harder to eavesdrop without a warrant or without the person knowing about it. And to that I say, tough shit. It is really hard to read a letter in a sealed envelope without it being obvious, but we don’t ban sealed envelopes do we?

    1. Here is the thing with encryption. If the police get a proper warrant to read your emails and they are encrypted, you have to turn over the key or be held in contempt of court. And that is a perfectly proper rule. If the police have a proper warrant giving them the key to your encrypted data is no different than unlocking the door to a storage shed they have a warrant to search.

      I would disagree that this is a proper rule – there should be no obligation on the warantee to provide any more assistance than not getting in the way of a search. Granted – that might mean your closet door gets torn down if you wanted to push the issue, but I’m ok with that.

      Same with encryption – the cops can *ask* for the key – but if you don’t want to provide it then its up to them to figure out how to break the lock.

      But I do agree that, with the law as it is today, encryption provides little impediment to gathering evidence.

      1. That is bullshit. The fifth amendment says you don’t have to incriminate yourself. That includes turning over evidence. For example, if the police ask to see my diary, I have not only a 4th Amendment objection to it, I have a 5th as well. My act of turning over my incriminating diary is just as much a testimonial act as my saying something. Yet, the police can, with a warrant, still get my diary. They can also draw my blood or ask me to turn over the key to my safe deposit box.

        You shouldn’t let the digital nature of an encryption key change your perception of what it is. It is a key. It is no different than the key to my safe deposit box. It is just not physical but it is the same thing. Can the police force me to tell them what email accounts I have? No way. Or tell them where I have hidden my lap top? No way. That is no different than my telling them what safety deposit boxes I rent. But once they find out where those things are, my giving them the encryption key is no different than my giving them a physical key. One may be a set of numbers and the other a piece of metal, but conceptually they are the same thing.

        1. What?

          If the police get a proper warrant to read your emails and they are encrypted, you have to turn over the key or be held in contempt of court. And that is a perfectly proper rule.

          So, you write that you think being forced to allow access to evidence is proper, I write that I disagree with it, and you come back and disagree with yourself?

          There should be no requirement that you have to *provide* access to anything – only that you don’t actively prevent it. Digital, physical – no matter. I should have to unlock a physical lock for a cop but, with a warrant, he’s justified in breaking it if I won’t help.

          Same with encryption – If I don’t choose to give him a key, he’s free to break in.

          1. I don’t contradict myself. I don’t have to tell the police where the evidence is. But if they know where it is and it is locked up, I do have to give them the key. If the police have a warrant, I have to give them the key to the safe deposit box if I have it. That is not testimonial. We only think of encryption differently because we get fooled by it being digital. It is the same thing.

            The whole point of the 4th Amendment is a balance between privacy and the police’ ability to lawfully investigate crimes. The 4th Amendment protects privacy not obstruction of justice. If I can’t legally delete the digital evidence, and I clearly can’t, how can I legally encrypt it and then refuse to turn over the key when the police produce a warrant? Without the key, the evidence is effectively deleted. If I don’t have to give the key when the police get a warrant, the balance is totally thrown off. There is more going on here than just my privacy and rights. A judge has concluded there is probable cause that there is evidence of a crime there. I should have to turn it over and should not have the right to make it forever unobtainable through encryption anymore than I should have a right to destroy it.

            1. Don’t confuse what I *want* with what is actually happening.

              The first part of my post is my opinion on the state of the law – I do not agree that being required to turn over evidence (and ‘active’ act) is appropriate (distinct from not preventing police access – a ‘passive’ act).

              The second part agrees with you that with the law *as it is* a warrant is not a serious impediment to collecting digital evidence.

              1. I have gone back and forth on the encryption key issue. At first I thought the person shouldn’t have to turn it over. Now I have changed my mind for the reasons I give. I also think that if we don’t have the rule, people will want the government to ban encryption. Right or wrong, most people do not want criminals to be able to avoid search warrants via encryption. If you don’t have to turn over the key, you are for the most part just protecting the guilty. I understand the principle of the thing, but if the cops have a warrant and there is nothing to hide, I am giving them the encryption key. I am okay with living with that rule. I don’t want the cops looking at my shit without a warrant, but if they get one, well that is how the game is played. I still, however, want the ability to encrypt such that no one is reading it unless I give them the key.

      2. Consider this analogy. Let’s say my brother is defrauding his business partners and he comes to me for help. To help him, I go in and ensure that all of the evidence of his crimes are erased from the company servers and computers and can’t be recovered. You would agree I would be guilty of obstruction of justice there, right? And if he did it himself, he would be guilty as well? It is a crime to knowingly destroy evidence of a crime.

        Suppose instead of destroying it, I just gave him an encryption program that was unbreakable. If he is not required to give the cops the key, how is that any different than destroying it? The point is that while the 4th Amendment says the cops can’t just come in and purpose my papers without a warrant, it also recognizes that if they have a warrant, I have to turn them over and can’t just set them on fire. If I can’t erase them or burn them legally, I don’t see how I should be able to encrypt them and not turn over the key to the encryption either.

        1. Don’t let the digital nature of the evidence change your base principals.

          You have a basic human right to conceal evidence (as far as I’m concerned – this is obviously not a position that the government agrees with), even destroy it.

          Not being allowed to destroy evidence is why we have no-knock raids to prevent you from flushing a joint down the toilet.

          I would not call destruction of evidence, *before* the police have asked for it, as obstruction of justice.

          I simply do not think you have an obligation to *cooperate* with the people trying to put you in a cage. Cooperation can be useful – unlock a desk can prevent the cops from smashing it open (which, once they have a warrant, are IMO justified in doing) but its not something I think you should be complelled to do.

          The 5th amendment trumps law enforcement’s needs. It has to. Otherwise there are no rights at all that the government is obliged to respect if it interferes in a ‘legitimate’ government function.

          1. You have a basic human right to conceal evidence (as far as I’m concerned – this is obviously not a position that the government agrees with), even destroy it.

            I don’t have t he right under the 4th Amendment. I have a right not to have the cops come looking for it without a warrant and a right not to have to help them by telling them where it is or turning it over absent a warrant. If they know where it is and get a warrant, I no longer have a right to conceal it. And I don’t see how you could say anyone has a right to destroy evidence of a crime. By your logic, if I murder my wife and you help me dispose of the body and get rid of the evidence of my crime, you haven’t committed a crime? How is that not a crime. You are not guilty of murder. But you are guilty of helping me escape justice for my crime. You certainly don’t have any obligation to turn me in. But you absolutely have no right to help me conceal my crime and escape justice. And if you don’t, I certainly don’t either.

          2. I simply do not think you have an obligation to *cooperate* with the people trying to put you in a cage.

            If there is not some obligation to cooperate with a warrant, how do we have warrants at all? The police as a general rule have no right to come into my house and search it. If they show up without one and try to do so, I have the right to slam the door in their face and not let them in. When they show up with a warrant, my letting them in and search the house is most certainly cooperating with them. By your logic, I don’t have to do that and can slam the door and not let them in. If I have to open the door and let them in the house to search, then I don’t see how I don’t have to also give them the encryption key and let them search the computer if they have a warrant to do so.

    2. It is apparently not quite as simple as that.

      See here: https://youtu.be/_3BklAx-sjc

  8. Or, instead of trying to play James Bond, we could concentrate on making life unpleasant for polities that harbor terrorist groups. Oh, there will be shrieks of outrage from the “international Community”, but gunboat diplomacy “Every time a nut job from your country kills an American citizen we and our 16″ guns are going to shell your city again” has a proven track record.

    Think about it; it exports the violation of “human rights” outside the country. It visits the unpleasantness of the simmering war on the people who, if they had a motive, could make the terrorists outcasts instead of heroes. And it would infuriate the Liberal Intellectual Radical Progressive Left.

    All excellent goals.

    1. Oh, there will be shrieks of outrage from the “international Community”, but gunboat diplomacy “Every time a nut job from your country kills an American citizen we and our 16″ guns are going to shell your city again” has a proven track record.

      Haven’t we been doing exactly that for a decade already?

      What were Iraq and Afghanistan if not massive retaliation for an attack here? What are the wedding drones if not the equivalent?

      1. No. We haven’t. We continue to screw it up by diluting the message with “nation building” and similar bushwa. We should have invaded Iraq, toppled the government, hanged Saddam if convenient, AND LEFT. We should have shelled and bombed Libya when q’daffy Duck was actually annoying us, not when there was a civil war that was arguably none of our friction’ business.

        We keep losing focus.

        1. Well, we’re not nation-building in Iraq any more and we’re droning motherfuckers from Yemen to Pakistan if anyone so much as looks at us funny and its still not helping.

          1. I am only slightly interested in our “droning” mammy-jammers. however, I would point out that what I’d like to see is nonintervention UNTIL our people or interests are attacked. And, to my mind, having an occupying force in Iraq and Afghanistan muddies that.

            Now, if we were going to colonize segments of the middle east, and run them a la the Raj, that would be something else. It frankly hasn’t taken too many decades of post colonial mass murder, famine-as-a-tool-of-statecraft, and rampant kleptocracy. to make colonial paternalism look awfully goddamned good. But even if we were going to invade and stay, we wouldn’t be doing it in the style of the Raj; we haven’t the temperament.

            So, we should get the hell OUT. Everybody out of the pool. And the VERY NEXT TIME there is a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, or on U.S. Citizens, or on U.S. Interests (like an oil terminal, f’instance) we should totally flatten the regime most closely associated. Don’t invade. Don’t apologize for “collateral damage”. Don’t go begging to the U.N.. Just clobber them, and if somebody complains that we don’t have clear evidence. or the moral high ground, the answer is “There’s more where that came from. Need us to prove it?”

            1. Cntd.
              Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

              Establish firmly that screwing us is a bad idea. And from there on a lot of diplomatic issues will be a great deal simpler, because we won’t be pretending to be benevolent, or philanthropic, or anything but looking out for our own interests.

              I expect the majority of the world would breathe a giant sigh of relief.

    2. Not going to happen, of course. Our would-be masters are MUCH more worried about how France thinks of them than thy are about respecting our rights.

    3. We’d have to attack some allies–like maybe Saudia Arabia, Pakistan, etc. Which might just be more effective than fighting their proxy armies.

    4. Or, you know, we could mind our own fucking business and stop dronemurdering people and nation building.

      Nah. Goofy talk.

      1. Well, at a minimum, restrict dronemurdering people to matters that ARE our business, clearly and obviously. If, after 9/11, we had said, “Look, Saddam was supposed to meet a bunch of conditions when we agreed to his surrender, but he hasn’t met many of them. We’ve been very patient, but something else has come up, and he’s shit out of luck. And BTW, we just nuked the silly sonofabitch.” all sorts of people would have been shocked, SHOCKED!. But everybody who matters a damn would have understood.

        See, the fiction that we are benevolent, charitable, and kindly as a nation isn’t especially believable. Not so much because, on the scale of Nations, we aren’t (we do a damn sight better than any of the sophisticated nations of the EU, on a crisis by crisis basis), but because it isn’t believable of ANY GOVERNMENT. Throughout human history governments have been “lending a hand” to a neighboring state, and just look we collected all their taxes (which we’re keeping). The USSR was notorious for this kind of thing. It fools nobody. Not even when it’s us. Not even when we really do have nothing but benign intentions.

  9. It’s for your own good.

    What follows is a review of the only-in-New-York process for renovating a co-op or condo apartment ? a process that requires careful planning, an ability to roll with the punches and a heavy dose of forbearance. Remember that what may sometimes seem like rigmarole was created to protect the safety and interests of everyone involved.

    Why, if everybody just started doing stuff without permission, it would be chaos.

    1. a process that requires careful planning, an ability to roll with the punches

      What’s the point of the careful planning if you have to bow down to the whims of the certifier’s anyway.

      May as well just go in and wing the process.

      1. a process that requires careful planning, an ability to roll with the punches

        …and $600K. Nice to see the NYT go to bat for the little guy again.

        1. After already spending a mill and a half on the apartment.

          Its a nice apartment to be sure, but (and maybe its just me) if I had a million and a half to spare I would not be getting property in NYC. And not just because I hate living in the NE – I’d think you could buy a decent spread upstate and a place to crash in the city during the week.

          1. Not everybody wants a “spread”.

            No, what I find mildly amusing is the NYT’s flawless progressivism on the one hand while obviously being the paper of the very rich on the other.

            1. “the NYT’s flawless progressivism on the one hand while obviously being the paper of the very rich on the other.”

              If you look at it from the POV of the Suburban readers, it actually makes a lot more sense.

              The NYT is not the paper of the urban progressive-Activist, frothing about the Koch brothers and insisting that stories about lead in the local farmer’s market are all Corporate Lies

              No, they’re the paper of the Westchester Soccer mom, who wants both feel-good political bias, lambasting greedy real estate developers and those Fat-Cats on Wall Street…. while also providing great recipes for Organic Chutney, tips on which Islands off of Spain are best for to avoid the hoi polloi, and reassuring them that they’re not bad parents for never letting their kids do anything dangerous

              1. No, they’re the paper of the Westchester Soccer mom

                Close, but I think “yuppie” is closer. You’re right that they don’t give two shits about the average urban prog/activist. But the only attention they pay to the suburbs is when they talk about day trips to the Hamptons or something.

  10. It’s also customary for both the contractor and the apartment owner to tip the superintendent before work begins. It could be cash, he suggested, or a gift like tickets to a sports event, if you know the superintendent’s interests.

    “Bribe” is such an ugly word.

    1. My super is useless. One weeked afternoon his wife answered the door and explained that he couldn’t help me because he was “at work”. I thought, “THIS is his work”. Fuck that tip shit. They get a nice apartment for free. That’s enough goddamn compensation if you ask me.

      1. what was your problem?

        1. Probably something plumbing-related that I could fix myself in 10 seconds if I had the right tools and know-how.

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