For The Intercept, Dan Froomkin and Jenna McLaughlin write about the FBI's recent court order to Apple mandating that the technology company create a "back door," granting the government access to information on suspects' iPhones. They write that this is a continuation of the from the 1990s Crypto Wars, a battle between the US government and technologists that the FBI lost. Read the excerpt below, or full piece via The Intercept here.
For over two decades, the battle between privacy-minded technologists and the U.S. government has primarily been over encryption. In the 1990s, in what became known as the Crypto Wars, the U.S. tried to limit powerful encryption — calling it as dangerous to export as sophisticated munitions — and eventually lost.
After the 2013 Snowden revelations, as mainstream technology companies started spreading encryption by putting it in popular consumer products, the wars erupted again. Law enforcement officials, led by FBI Director James Comey, loudly insisted that U.S. companies should build backdoors to break the encryption just for them.
That won’t happen because what these law enforcement officials are asking for isn’t possible (any backdoor can be used by hackers, too) and wouldn’t be effective (because encryption is widely available globally now). They’ve succeeded in slowing the spread of unbreakable encryption by intimidating tech companies that might otherwise be rolling it out faster, but not much else.
Indeed, as almost everyone else acknowledges, unbreakable encryption is here to stay.
Tech privacy advocates continue to remain vigilant about encryption, actively pointing out the inadequacies and impossibilities of the anti-encryption movement, and jumping on any sign of backsliding.
But even as they have stayed focused on defending encryption, the government has been shifting its focus to something else.
The ongoing, very public dispute between Apple and the FBI, in fact, marks a key inflection point — at least as far as the public’s understanding of the issue.
You might say we’re entering the Post-Crypto phase of the Crypto Wars.
Think about it: The more we learn about the FBI’s demand that Apple help it hack into a password-protected iPhone, the more it looks like part of a concerted, long-term effort by the government to find new ways around unbreakable encryption — rather than try to break it.
*Image of Apple CEO Tim Cook via LA Times