On Sunday, Apple CEO Tim Cook restated his position that no backdoor to the encryption on Apple products will be made available to law enforcement or the intelligence community. His feeling is that the choice between privacy and security is a false one:
“I don’t believe the tradeoff here is privacy versus national security,” he said, adding that’s an “overly simplistic view.”
“We’re America. We should have both.”
That makes for a good sound bite, but it doesn’t solve the issue. I’d love to have both as well. But when information vital to stopping the next attack is encrypted and sitting on a device that law enforcement has a search warrant for, or traversing a network from overseas into the United States that the intelligence community has lawful intercept authority for, sound bites won’t stop the next attack.
There are some things we can do – like more human intelligence. Sometimes the easiest way to crack encryption is to be on the inside. But that is also a false sense of security. With the thousands of active threats in the world, and the many thousands of terrorists, knowing which conversation to listen is made more difficult by the fact we don’t even know if the conversations are taking place, or where.
Let’s not forget this isn’t just about terrorism. We’re also talking human trafficking, missing and exploited children, dangerous fugitives, manhunts, disaster recovery operations, organized crime, drug trafficking, gangs and more.
It’s easy to say we should have both security and privacy, and that there is no need to make a choice. It’s a little tougher to say that when the wolf is at your door.