Absolutely Disgusting: Eric Holder Implies That Mobile Encryption Will Lead To Dead & Abused Kids

from the shameful dept

Well, you knew it was coming. First, law enforcement trotted out random low level “law enforcement officials” to freak out about Apple and Google’s announced plans to make encryption the default on mobile phones. Then it got taken up a notch when FBI boss James Comey lashed out at the idea, bizarrely arguing that merely encrypting your data made individuals “above the law” (none of that is accurate). And, now, Comey’s boss, Attorney General Eric Holder has stepped up to issue a similar warning. However, Holder has cynically chosen to do so at the Biannual Global Alliance Conference Against Child Sexual Abuse Online.

At this point, it’s all too predictable that when anyone in power is getting ready to take away your rights, they’ll figure out a way to claim that it’s “for the children!” The statements over the past week by law enforcement, Comey and now Holder are clearly a coordinated attack — the start of the new crypto wars (a repeat of what we went through a decade and a half ago), designed to pass some laws that effectively cripple encryption and put backdoors in place. Holder’s take on this is to cynically pull on heartstrings about “protecting the children” despite this having nothing, whatsoever, to do with that.

When a child is in danger, law enforcement needs to be able to take every legally available step to quickly find and protect the child and to stop those that abuse children. It is worrisome to see companies thwarting our ability to do so.

Again, as stated last week, the same argument could be made about walls and doors and locks.

It is fully possible to permit law enforcement to do its job while still adequately protecting personal privacy.

The key issue here is “adequately” and forgive many of us for saying so, but the public no longer trusts the DOJ/NSA/FBI to handle these things appropriately. And, just as importantly, we have little faith that the backdoors that the DOJ is pushing for here aren’t open to abuse by others with malicious intent. Protecting personal privacy is about protecting personal privacy — and the way you do that is with encryption. Not backdoors.

But Holder used this opportunity to cynically pile on about criminals using encryption, rather than noting any of the important benefits towards privacy they provide:

Recent technological advances have the potential to greatly embolden online criminals, providing new methods for abusers to avoid detection. In some cases, perpetrators are using cloud storage to cheaply and easily store tens of thousands of images and videos outside of any home or business ? and to access those files from anywhere in the world. Many take advantage of encryption and anonymizing technology to conceal contraband materials and disguise their locations.

The DOJ has long wanted to restart the crypto wars that it lost (very badly) last time around (even though that “loss” helped enable parts of the internet to thrive by making it more secure). For years it’s been looking to do things like reopen wiretapping statutes like CALEA and mandate wiretap backdoors into all sorts of technology. Now it’s cynically jumping on this bit of news about Apple and Google making it just slightly easier to protect your privacy to try to re-open those battles and shove through new laws that will emphatically decrease your privacy.

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Comments on “Absolutely Disgusting: Eric Holder Implies That Mobile Encryption Will Lead To Dead & Abused Kids”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Excuse me mr Holder but I’d rather live with the dim risk of my kid falling in the hands of your fictional psychopath than having the very same kid live in a totalitarian, Police State future. The said child abuser is merely a small, statistically insignificant probability that law enforcement can maintain low by using basic investigative measures while the other is almost certain and will permeate all aspects of this kid life later.

David says:

Re: Re:

You are assuming that totalitarian police states are reducing the influence of psychopaths on your children’s lives. History as well as basic sociology and logic would disagree.

The way to curb psychopaths is to keep them out of the phones of your children. Because it gives them power to wield over your children.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Said child abusers are not an issue that warrants full time mass surveillance. It isn’t even an issue some places. And old investigative work will get to them. Also, if you are a good parent you’ll not allow a child to own a mobile phone up to a point and then properly warn them about the dangers. You know, good parenting.

Dangers exist. You may die of a plane falling in your head right now. Or lightning. Or the ground collapsing under you. Or a mugging. Or some schizophrenic deciding to stab you. Or some SWAT raid gone wrong. What are you gonna do? Isolate yourself in a bubble? Why not just live your life while mitigating the risks without being paranoid?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Silver lining

While disgusting that so many seem to be pulling the ‘Think of the children!’ to try and attack encryption, I can’t help but see it as a good sign.

It’s pretty obvious they’re panicking, doing everything they can to undermine the rollout of increase encryption and slip in backdoors for what’s there, and they’d only do so if said encryption was giving them problems, and since the more problems they have the better, the shrillness of their claims is actually a good thing I’d argue, as it suggests that they’re getting desperate.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Silver lining

Except they can pressure the right people to ‘tweak’ the law to make things easier for them. It’s like an animal when cornered, there’s nothing else to be done so let’s claw and bite and try to kill anything that gets near. I wonder if they can be contained or the world can move on into the future before too much damage is done?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Silver lining

Following tradition and history, a lot of damage must occur before you are able to force the sheeple to accept what has actually occurred.

Let me provide the last 2 presidents as proof of how tolerant people are of their worthless leaders.

Bush started the DHS with the blessings of the left, and now that the left are in charge they are thoroughly enjoying the power laying around extensively. Bet they scream like girls if a Repuke makes it to office.

We are truly living up to the warning George Washington warned us of if we keep this party/identity bullshit going!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Silver lining

This is exactly what I have been saying for years. I hate that the Repubs created the Patriot act but the Dems have taken to it like a duck to water.

This is why Dems should be crying foul right now with all the abuses of the current administration. I am sure many think it is funny that the IRS targeted the right, but what are they goign to say if the right targets the left? Freedom and liberty can only be maintained when all sides are free from abuse from the other sides.

Anonymous Hero says:

What drives me crazy!

What drives me crazy is that there is no logic behind this sort of argument. Does the gov’t want to outlaw encryption??? NO. They cant, because that would destroy the Internet. Think of email, online banking. e-commerce, anything, and everything. There’s no way in hell any gov’t can outlaw encryption. Everyone depends on it.

So what is this big media push about? At the end of the day, the issue doesn’t have anything to do with phone encryption (which has been offered in the popular mobile OSs for years). What we’re hearing, is that the issue regards the minor change of making the already-existing encryption feature turned on as the default setting. Think about that for a moment.

The PR push is basically saying: if the already-existing encryption feature is enabled by default, children will be raped.

This doesn’t make any sense to me. The people who gain security from having the encryption enabled by default are the people who don’t care to encrypt their phones in the first place because THEY’RE NOT RAPING CHILDREN.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: What drives me crazy!

What we’re hearing, is that the issue regards the minor change of making the already-existing encryption feature turned on as the default setting.

I could be mistaken, but I think it’s more than that. I think it’s about who has the keys. Before, Apple had encryption keys. The government could go to Apple and they had the capability to decrypt a user’s files. With this new system, Apple doesn’t have the keys, only the user has them. So even if the government threatens to kill their children, Apple literally cannot decrypt the files, because they don’t have the key needed to do so.

What the government is screaming about is that they’re losing the ability to lean on a few big compliant corporations to decrypt stuff, and will now have to get warrants against a larger number of individuals, many of whom will be much less cooperative.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not Just Paedos

Encryption also protects the financial sector from investigation into massive securities fraud and embezzlement which could cause a global financial meltdown!! Or it protects the communications of war criminals who engaged in state-sanctioned torture! Or allows natsec employees to engage in ESPIONAGE^TM

Just look at how many DOJ investigations that have failed to produce prosec- oh, +$@@;@!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not Just Paedos

“Encryption also protects the financial sector from investigation into massive securities fraud and embezzlement”

Actually, this isn’t true. The SEC already requires open access to all email, SMS, etc., of all those in the financial community.

So Holder can’t blame his misfeasance on encrypted financial community communications.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not Just Paedos

I remember the last round of the crypto wars and a statement from then-president Bill Clinton. He stated at that time that bankers would be exempted from the proposed restrictions because, and I quote, “bankers are good citizens”. Obviously, the rest of us peons were to be considered bad citizens.

Anonymous Coward says:

From most of the abductions that make the news, if they capture the person, and hence want to read the content of their phones, either they have just rescued the child, or more likely they are much too late.
How many abducted children are still alive when the alarm is raised, except when they have a report of a kid being bundled into a vehicle?

Applesauce says:

Who else will have the key?

In all these comments, everyone seems to keep forgetting that if the NSA and/or the FBI has a back door key, they will be unable to keep it secure. The Russian FSB will have it, and so will the Russian Mafia. The Chinese PLA will have it and all their friends too. It will be a long list and the key will be available for sale to anyone with $$$ soon after.

If anyone doubts this, remember:
1. The walker spy ring, which sold USA’s most secure Navy codes to the Soviets (for mere pennies, BTW).
2. The Robert Hanssen case, where the FBI’s top counterintelligence officer was a Soviet Spy.
3. All the ones who haven’t been caught yet (Hanssen got away with it for 22 years).

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Who else will have the key?

In all these comments, everyone seems to keep forgetting that if the NSA and/or the FBI has a back door key, they will be unable to keep it secure.

Perhaps you’re not seeing it in the comments because it was already covered in the article: “And, just as importantly, we have little faith that the backdoors that the DOJ is pushing for here aren’t open to abuse by others with malicious intent.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Will there be cases of future harm to children because of encryption?, yes. Though one has to wonder at how hard it has been so far them to point to a specific case that encrypted phones would have had that effect.

However, right now, today, how much harm is being done due to lack of encryption? Harm and abuse, and not just by government agencies that think they’re above the law?
And not just children, think of the adults, think of the businesses.

Identity theft, release of private photos & email to the press. Harm to businesses by foreign countries. Stolen R&D, technology.

Anonymous Coward says:

“It is worrisome to see companies thwarting our ability to do so.”

Mr. Holder, the only worrisome thing here is your decision to use such a venue to denounce encryption. Perhaps you’d like to pursue other venues such as a children’s hospital and tell them they’re all there because of encryption. Your actions are shockingly disgusting and will only serve to alienate.

Those companies thwarting this “ability” you claim are merely responding to YOUR government’s actions with personal privacy. You should accept that as the consequence of spying on everyone.

And anyone who uses “greatly embolden” in this line of dialogue & context (such as yourself), is flat out lying and/or has no idea of what they’re talking about.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Dear Mr Holder

Has crying wolf on terrorism lost its ability to sway the population, is that why you are now resorting to the big gun of fear statements, “For the Children”.

I for one cringe every time I hear the words “to protect you from (insert flavor of the day threat here)” or “for the children”. History shows, each time these phrases are used, you are attempting to reduce peoples rights.

I am sure that most people, would prefer children live under the threat of abduction, rather than the totalitarian, 1984 style surveillance state, the US federal government seems intent on creating.

tqk (profile) says:


Recent technological advances have the potential to …

I look forward to the day when the people of the world outside the USA decide that to save the world, they must invade the US and force them all to learn about statistics, with mandatory refresher classes every so many years or whenever one of them says something like what I quoted above.

Someone once joked that all the molecules in a glass of beer might all line up through Brownian Motion and decide to leap out of the glass. Yes, the potential is there but how likely is it? Not very. Vanishingly small, in fact.

Anonymous Coward says:

I would be loving this right now, except the country is going down the tubes

On the one hand, I am absolutely loving it that the current administration is so corrupt, abusive, controlling, manipulative, deceitful and operating beyong the law. Listening to the left talk about how liberal/progressive policies are going to save the world and then seeing the trainwreck those policies cause is humorous to say the least. But then watching this country get destroyed by those policies is quite depressing.

I know, I know, you are going to say that Dems/Repubs are 2 sides of the same coin and you are absolutely right. But many here, before seeing Obama and his chronies destroying this country, were crowing big time. Now that we see that the liberal lies are in fact lies, the crows are silent. Of course they have their old standby cries of racism, war on women, this phobia and that phobia. They don’t seem to have slowed down there. But the economic, domestic and foreign policies have been shown to be the failures that they are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Investigators have tons of options to help them catch child predators. I guarantee if a child comes up missing, the police will perform cellphone tower dumps to see who was in the area where the abduction occurred.

Once Investigators narrow down a list of suspects, they will then switch over to the more fine grain GPS logs to track a potential suspect’s movements throughout the day in question.

Holder is totally misrepresenting how a child abduction investigation actually operates. The last stage of the investigation involves confronting the suspect, searching their cellphone for pictures and most importantly. Checking the suspect’s car, clothing, and pecker for DNA evidence.

In no way did disk encryption impede the most crucial early stages of the investigation. Using service provider logs to narrow down the list of suspects who were in the vicinity where the crime occurred.

There’s also street cameras, store cameras, and automated license plate readers keeping a record of any vehicles or personnel in the area. Not to mention witness statements.

If the DOJ can’t solve a crime using all these investigative avenues, then disk encryption on phones is the least of their concern.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yes, but the DOJ doesn’t actually care about stopping child abuse. If they genuinely gave a damn, they would work on obvious things like cleaning up the foster care system and fixing the issues with Child Protective Services.

Every time the DOJ brings up child abuse, it’s as a straw man to promote their political agenda.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

TLA knee jerk

Even though the TLAs likely have everything on the phone (via cloud, cell tower, and static communications taps) they’re in a panic because they’ll no longer be able to look directly on the device.

It’s like the knee reflex: They can’t see anything that isn’t already “theirs,” without throwing a tantrum, “I Want it!!! I want it!!! I want it!!!”

Anonymous Coward says:

The real terrorists!

It is abundantly clear that our government has become the real terrorist threat. In response we must do whatever is needed to protect ourselves from them. Encryption is only one small step. Remember this the next time you are tempted to vote for a Republicrat or Demacan. Pick a person that has stood up for freedom and write in their name, be it Warren, Whyden or Snowden. Someone with credible deeds, not empty rhetoric and broken promises. A real patriot, we haven’t had one for decades.

Web_Rat (profile) says:

“When a child is in danger, law enforcement needs to be able to take every legally available step to quickly find and protect the child and to stop those that abuse children. It is worrisome to see companies thwarting our ability to do so.”

Let’s stop for a moment and reflect on this statement. I wholeheartedly agree that law enforcement must take every “legally available step” to find and protect children from abusers. This means, going to a judge in a publicly accessible court system with probable cause and obtaining a search warrant, which is required to over-ride the individual’s “right to privacy.” It’s been the law of the land for over 200 years.

This right to privacy is what gives citizens the ability to purchase products that allow them to secure that right to privacy. For example, doors, locks, curtains, safes, etc, all give the user at least a semblance of privacy in their residence. Yet, none of the companies selling these items are considered to be thwarting the government’s ability to stop child abusers. WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE? OMG, business’ that construct buildings are preventing law enforcement from seeing the abuse! They must be stopped because……….

……..think of the children!

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