FBI director: I don’t like encryption, but I’m not a maniac

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FBI director isn't too keen on Apple's security measures.
FBI director isn't too keen on Apple's security measures.
Photo: 1Password

There’s just no getting around it: FBI director James Comey isn’t a fan of encryption.

In an open letter, Comey writes that the kind of security seen on devices like the iPhone do more to hurt us than they do to help — potentially even aiding terrorist groups such as ISIS.

“I really am not a maniac (or at least my family says so),” he claims. “But my job is to try to keep people safe. In universal strong encryption, I see something that is with us already and growing every day that will inexorably affect my ability to do that job.”

Corey’s op-ed isn’t entirely designed to bash encryption. He notes that “there are lots of good things” about strong encryption that can protect us “from thieves of all kinds.” However, he writes that there are also significant costs involved.

“Public safety in the United States has relied for a couple centuries on the ability of the government, with predication, to obtain permission from a court to access the “papers and effects” and communications of Americans. The Fourth Amendment reflects a trade-off inherent in ordered liberty: To protect the public, the government sometimes needs to be able to see an individual’s stuff, but only under appropriate circumstances and with appropriate oversight.”

This isn’t the first time the FBI director has sounded off against the increasing tendency toward strong encryption on smartphone — a trend Apple has been instrumental in. When Apple made upgrades to the iOS privacy policy, meaning that the company can no longer unlock your phone as part of an investigation, Comey described himself as “very concerned” about the implications.

Tim Cook, meanwhile, has come down on the other side of the fence — saying that Apple “don’t read your emails, we don’t read your messages, we find it unacceptable to do that — I don’t want people reading mine!”

In an interview with the Telegraph newspaper in the U.K., Cook commented that:

“None of us should accept that the government or a company or anybody should have access to all of our private information. This is a basic human right. We all have a right to privacy. We shouldn’t give it up. We shouldn’t give in to scare-mongering or to people who fundamentally don’t understand the details.”

In May, Apple put its name to an open letter to President Obama asking him to reject anti-encryption proposals.

“Strong encryption is the cornerstone of the modern information economy’s security,” argued the letter, which was signed by more than 140 tech companies, technologists, and civil society groups.

Yep, it’s probably safe to say that James Comey’s not an iPhone user!

Source: Lawfare