Privacy

Encryption Makes Us Safe, Says Sen. Mark Warner at SXSW

He wants a commission to figure out how to protect our privacy and still allow us to go after the bad guys.

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Mark Warner addresses SXSW
Stephanie Slade

During a panel this morning at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) on how government can be better supporting entrepreneurs, Sen. Mark Warner (D–Va.) at one point steered the conversation toward the importance of "digital security," specifically raising the locked iPhone controversy as an example.

"I firmly believe that encryption makes us safe," he said. "We need encrypted systems. If we throw this into the political realm and we come up with a static one-time solution, we could end up not making Americans safer, but simply driving all the bad guys to use foreign-based hardware and software. That's not where we want to end up."

To recap, the FBI is demanding Apple help it get into a locked device that belonged to one of the deceased San Bernardino terrorists. The tech giant is insisting that any steps it might take to weaken the phone's security settings would render all its customers' information less secure and is refusing to comply.

Warner's position isn't that Apple is right and law enforcement should stand down, though. He thinks it's important for Congress to develop a policy solution for future conflicts that's respectful of the concerns all sides. "Frankly, it's disappointing to me that both Apple and the Justice Department and the FBI are taking such absolutist positions," he told me. "Having this litigated out in a variety of courts around the country is not the way to get this resolved."

His solution is to convene a 9/11-style "commission" to work through how situations like this ought to be handled going forward. He acknowledged to me that "often a commission ends up being a Washington way to punt on a problem," but believes that because "this is one that's so complex and so necessary that we get right," it makes sense to bring people together "and force those conversations to take place."

"There are technological solutions that will protect our privacy and still allow us to go after the bad guys. But you've got to get everybody in a room—the technologists, the civil libertarians, the intel community, and think about this not only in terms of the current state of play," but also in terms of what might be coming, he said during the panel. "Because if you think this is tough, wait until we move into the so-called 'Internet of Things'…The privacy concerns are going to be exponentially larger, and we need to get ahead of that."

NEXT: The Main Casualty of Canceled Trump Rally Is The *Idea* of Free Speech

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  1. Do we ever really need to go after bad guys? I mean, if we treated criminals like criminals instead of non state military actors, does it matter?

  2. His solution is to convene a 9/11-style “commission” to work through how situations like this ought to be handled going forward.

    Yeah, and who will provide input to that commission — Apple??!!??!!??!?!???!

    1. Elected commissioners?

    2. Probably a bunch of government security experts.

      You know, the same way they stack “Civilian” review boards with former cops and PUC oversight committees with former heads of public utilities.

      1. Maybe they should institute the draft for such commissions, but then women couldn’t serve…

  3. Doesn’t Warner know we already had a committee that oversaw the rules for this? Thy met in Philadelphia and wrote the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

    1. Clever… too clever…

      1. But wrong. The BoR was written later by Madison and had to be ratified etc.

    2. And that turned out to be a mistake, because the 9th and 10th are effectively dead.

  4. So,he’s a idiot.

    1. He’s a senator from the den party… what do you think?

  5. “There are technological solutions that will protect our privacy and still allow us to go after the bad guys.”

    Citation needed.

    1. Of course, in order to identify the “bad guys”, you need to get rid of privacy

      Catch-22

    2. Oh, never mind. “Our” and “us”. *** wink-wink-nudge-nudge ***

    3. He got that from the last Bond movie, Spectre

  6. He almost had the pandering down perfectly, but then when pressed he was forced to reset to the default position.

  7. We’ll get the guys with the guns and the other guys in a room and the results will, uh, be as expected.

    1. Water guns?

      1. Seven people drowned.

  8. How can government can be better supporting entrepreneurs? Laissez nous faire!

  9. Govt should do what it’s least likely to do: keep its hands off tech.

    The public uses technology, which generally works and is very useful, so it often doesn’t understand: nobody knows where we are headed. We are barely a day old at this point, and making it up as we go. You’d swear there is a new programming language born about every month. Fifteen years ago, you were running Windows ME, and Apple was releasing the iPod; had it not done so, it might not exist today. Ten years ago, the iPhone did not exist; if you saw someone on the subway staring at a device like that, sweeping their fingers all over it, you’d have had no idea what you were looking at. People are immersed in twitter and facebook without realizing, in ten years time, those names may well have gone out of their minds nearly entirely, having been replaced by something else, not yet even conceived of.

    Mechanization has been fundamental in transforming the world, and to no small degree, but that is only the body — we are in the process of creating the brain, with the potential future benefits being incalculable. I am not talking about some utopian future where resources somehow magically materialize for free, but I do not doubt that these current times, with many of their attendant political factors, will look like the dark ages, in comparison.

    1. We’re already seeing this with email. Remember how full your inbox was 10 years ago? 5 years ago? And how full is it today?
      Email is going the way of the landline.

  10. “Frankly, it’s disappointing to me that both Apple and the Justice Department and the FBI are taking such absolutist positions,”

    For values of absolutist that equal “these are my rights and I’m not going to let you take them away from me”, sure.

    Compromising between an unreasonable demand and your entirely valid position is just bad negotiating skills.

    1. and it is never one round of negotiation. That is how we got where we are with erosion of rights. You start off with simple clear statements in the Bill of Rights, then every time some bad guy is protected by those rights the slavers call us all to the table, or argue in court, about how we can “preserve our rights without letting bad guys yadda yadda”, and another little chip comes out of the wall the BoR was supposed to erect around our rights.

      The answer to a call to compromise fundamental rights in the interest of making law enforcement easier is always simply No. Deal with the difficulties, recognize that sometimes some bad people will get away, and understand that fundamental rights to be secure in our persons, liberties, and effects are much more threatened by the State than by any terrorist.

      1. “The answer to a call to compromise fundamental rights in the interest of making law enforcement easier is always simply No.”

        Which, of course, is the reason Obo doesn’t want anyone taking an “absolutist” stance; it means “fuck off, slaver”.

    2. Compromising between an unreasonable demand and your entirely valid position is just bad negotiating skills.

      I’m not a huge Ayn Rand fan, but she does have some good quotes. This brings one to mind.

      Paraphrasing because I’m too lazy to look up the actual text: “In any compromise between good and evil, evil always profits.”

    3. It’s too bad that H Beam Piper wasn’t a Founding Father. Having an open season on politicians would have been such a boon to liberty.

  11. So is there a compromise position between Apple and fbi where our 4th amendment rights and encryption win?

    1. “Look at Secretary Clinton. She didn’t use encryption, and she’s OK.”

    2. is there a compromise position between Apple and fbi where our 4th amendment rights and encryption win?

      I think the best-case scenario is that, like say the MP3/DRM legal disputes in the early 2000’s, while the corporations and the government are battling shit out in courts, that people simply create their own homebrewed software/formats/code and distribute to any and all that want to self-encrypt, and take this question of whether or not corporations can “sell” people personal encryption a moot issue.

      this might involve Apple leaking an ‘open-source’ version of their own iOS, or something to that effect. or like a way to close any backdoors they are forced to implement

    3. So is there a compromise position between Apple and fbi where our 4th amendment rights and encryption win?

      The short answer is no.

      If Apple were forced to do what the original court order requested it would only allow the FBI to attempt to brute force crack the passcode. If the passcode 4 digits it would only take a matter of minutes. If it is 6 alpha numeric characters it is likely they would never crack it as it would take over 140 years to try all the possible passcodes.

      The Apple phone uses AES 256 bit encryption which there are no known vulnerabilities. The encryption algorithms are public knowledge and is the same encryption the US Government uses to encrypt top secret documents. The strength is in the number of possible passcodes. With a strong passcode the amount of time it takes to go through all the possibilities effectively renders the encryption unbreakable.

  12. Why do all the reason commenters love pedophilia? Makes me think…

    1. … they’re a bunch of pedophiliaphiliacs?

      1. Mind blown (does cool hand thing demonstrating an explosion in head)

    2. Hide your kids?

  13. all the sword fish swim into the steel oceans
    and the strong men in the chair swinging beside
    have spaceships on their belts
    and no one knows when the super muscle men will
    release their new space unto the revolves

  14. the man in the t shirt seemed confused
    and the space around us lilted with tiny angels
    and both of us will never explain why because
    we are both fucked up and enjoying gods of the dreams
    and iron hills man

  15. Fuck you Warner – you and your boy toy Barry can fuck each other.

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