We Agree with Apple – We Can’t Set the Precedent of an iPhone “Backdoor”

Last night, the United States government (a federal judge in California) ruled that Apple must provide access into the San Bernardino gunman’s phone. This ruling means they’ve ordered Apple to unlock and decrypt his encrypted iPhone 5C device.

Apple responded with strong letter to its customers – explaining what the government has ruled, how it’s assisted in the San Bernardino investigation thus far, and why they are opposing this order. They have called on the public and customers to join in the discussion.

The letter highlights the extremely dangerous precedent this ruling would set, as well as the implications of the government’s demand: “The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”

“We certainly understand why the government wants the information in issue because of the horrendous acts perpetrated by the San Bernardino terrorists. But much more is at stake. If Apple is required to build a backdoor for this iPhone, we all know it will not be for just this single device or even just to investigate future similar situations,” said Sunday Yokubaitis, President of Golden Frog. “Once a backdoor exists for the iPhone the precedent allowing “All Writs Act” use to bind service and device providers will be established. This and backdoors will be forcibly created and then used – and abused – repeatedly. We’ve seen great oversteps by the government surveilling citizens in the past using voluntary or forced assistance from the private sector (Take Room 641a, for instance). It is simply a bad idea – and bad policy – to require service, application and operating system providers to create and maintain a “key” that provides access to encrypted information stored on a user’s device or in the cloud, because it opens the door for ongoing, and routine sweeping surveillance of everyone’s personal information and indeed all aspects of everyone’s daily activities. No government should have such access. If the US government gets it, so will many others, including repressive regimes and ultimately terrorist organizations and quasi states that are themselves terrorists or supporters of terrorism.”

As a company Golden Frog has always stood for strong and secure encryption for everyone, and we oppose the idea that providers should or must build and maintain a mechanism that will inevitably make encryption insecure and that will surely just lead to abuse and complete loss of privacy. We stand with Apple, and strongly urge everyone who cares about their privacy to join them in fighting back against the government’s dangerous effort to require that Apple consciously create and have unsafe and insecure encryption merely so that the US government and all others can maintain and expand a surveillance state.

What the government wants here is no different than the “Writs of Assistance” employed by the British Crown that so riled the United States founders and in large part led to the revolution that gave rise to the United States. The signers of the Declaration of Independence complained that King George III “has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.” King George would have loved to have what the government now wants, but the United States founders rose up to deny him that power and we must once again ensure that such repression does not recur, as it surely will absent constant vigilance and zealous protection of our rights. They cannot be given this power and tool, even under circumstances such as these.

What Can You Do?

 

Sources: Ars TechnicaTechCrunch