Officials Upset That Companies Won’t Leave Your Phone Unencrypted

Officials Upset That Companies Won’t Leave Your Phone Unencrypted

Somewhere along the line our stone tablets turned into electronic ones. Laws have always struggled to deal with new technology and we’re in the midst of an almighty struggle right now over the contents of our devices. As the tech we use contains more and more of our personal information, the ownership of this data is highly contested and the value of it is massive, to governments, to corporations and to us. In a world where we lock our doors at night why should we leave our phones unencrypted and open to the world?

Speaking at the Global Alliance Conference Against Child Sexual Abuse Online event in Washington D.C., U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder claims that the trend towards greater encryption of smartphones is “worrisome” as it could hinder investigations into kidnappings and aid sexual predators. While we’re all for the protection of children, doesn’t it seem a little intrusive and scaremongering to tell companies to keep their phones unencrypted for law enforcement?

Holder’s remarks echo those made by FBI Director James Comey, who told reporters that quick access by law enforcement to the contents of a smartphone could save lives in some kidnapping and terrorism cases.

The warnings come as Apple and Google are rolling out capabilities that enable millions of smartphone users to protect information on their devices so that no one, aside from someone in possession of a password, can access the data. Even the OS makers and phone companies won’t have access.

Comey accused smartphone companies of offering encryption as “something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.” (PCWorld)

Holder and Comey clearly think that most people are of the notion that if you aren’t doing anything wrong then you’ve no need to fear the government. But what if you think the government is doing something wrong? How can you trust a government that has such a long list of abuses of power when your phone is unencrypted and vulnerable?

Far more thefts of devices occur than kidnappings or child abuse in the US. Although these crimes are undeniably horrific something is not right when a population is losing their right to privacy and due process.

“When you talk to young people, their whole life revolves around their phone and I think they instinctively know that the government shouldn’t be looking at their stuff without the permission of a judge” — Sen. Rand Paul

As we already know thanks to Edward Snowden, the U.S. (and the rest of the Five Eyes) has a vested interest in keeping technology open due to their massive surveillance programmes. If more data is encrypted and there are no backdoors left open this time the intelligence-industrial complex is going to find its wells running dry.

A phone unencrypted leaves little to the imagination of governments and marketing corporations. Living in a democracy is all about this constant struggle between limiting and expanding control. Of course, when democracy has ground to a halt and isn’t doing what it said on the tin, what is to be done? Which laws do we want to support, privacy for the individual or national security? And is there no way to reconcile both? Leave a comment or visit Facebook for more updates.

Written by Abiezer Coppe

(Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, Flickr CC BY 2.0)

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