FBI Quietly Removes Recommendation To Encrypt Your Phone… As FBI Director Warns How Encryption Will Lead To Tears

from the keeping-you-safe...-or-keeping-you-vulnerable dept

Back in October, we highlighted the contradiction of FBI Director James Comey raging against encryption and demanding backdoors, while at the very same time the FBI’s own website was suggesting mobile encryption as a way to stay safe. Sometime after that post went online, all of the information on that page about staying safe magically disappeared, though thankfully I screenshotted it at the time:

If you really want, you can still see that information over at the Internet Archive or in a separate press release the FBI apparently didn’t track down and memory hole yet. Still, it’s no surprise that the FBI quietly deleted that original page recommending that you encrypt your phones “to protect the user’s personal data,” because the big boss man is going around spreading a bunch of scare stories about how we’re all going to be dead or crying if people actually encrypted their phones:

Calling the use of encrypted phones and computers a ?huge problem? and an affront to the ?rule of law,? Comey, painted an apocalyptic picture of the world if the communications technology isn?t banned.

?We?re drifting to a place where a whole lot of people are going to look at us with tears in their eyes,? he told the House Appropriations Committee, describing a hypothetical in which a kidnapped young girl?s phone is discovered but can?t be unlocked.

So, until recently, the FBI was actively recommending you encrypt your data to protect your safety — and yet, today it’s “an affront to the rule of law.” Is this guy serious?

More directly, this should raise serious questions about what Comey thinks his role is at the FBI (or the FBI’s role is for the country)? Is it to keep Americans safe — or is it to undermine their privacy and security just so it can spy on everyone?

Not surprisingly, Comey pulls out the trifecta of FUD in trying to explain why it needs to spy on everyone: pedophiles, kidnappers and drug dealers:

?Tech execs say privacy should be the paramount virtue,? Comey continued, ?When I hear that I close my eyes and say try to image what the world looks like where pedophiles can?t be seen, kidnapper can?t be seen, drug dealers can?t be seen.?

Except we know exactly what that looks like — because that’s the world we’ve basically always lived with. And yet, law enforcement folks like the FBI and various police departments were able to use basic detective work to track down criminals.

If you want to understand just how ridiculous Comey’s arguments are, simply replace his desire for unencrypted devices with video cameras in every corner of your home that stream directly into the FBI. Same thing. Would that make it easier for the FBI to solve some crimes? Undoubtedly. Would it be a massive violation of privacy and put many more people at risk? Absolutely.

It’s as if Comey has absolutely no concept of a cost-benefit analysis. All “bad people” must be stopped, even if it means destroying all of our freedoms, based on what he has to say. That’s insane — and raises serious questions about his competence to lead a government agency charged with protecting the Constitution.

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Comments on “FBI Quietly Removes Recommendation To Encrypt Your Phone… As FBI Director Warns How Encryption Will Lead To Tears”

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74 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

Well, at least they are being honest that it has nothing to do with your safety but rather their whims.

It’s interesting that I had two similar cases happen near me. A girl I know had her phone stolen recently. The phone was locked loosely with those patterns and the criminals found out the pattern to unlock it and wrecked havoc on her online presence. Luckily she was able to drop them off her mail before they could complete the reset password procedure they started for many of her accounts so she lost nothing meaningful (she had almost no pictures or other personal things either. Close to this case another girl, friend of mine lost her phone and I had taught her to encrypt it and secure with a password. She remotely wiped everything and locked the phone via her imei so if anybody stole or something (we aren’t sure) then the person now has a nice paperweight.

Moral of the story: the FBI wants you to get screwed.

David says:

Re: Re:

Moral of the story: the FBI wants you to get screwed.

Only for your own good. Namely they prefer it when your possessions are not secure against the FBI. That has the side effect of making them insecure against most somewhat serious intruders. But it might thwart really stupid people.

And the U.S. education system takes care that there are not all that many others.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“when strong encryption was basically outlawed”

Strong encryption was never outlawed. What was outlawed was the exporting of strong encryption, not its development, possession, or use. Strong encryption has been in use on the internet from before the internet was open to the public.

BTW, the effect of the export ban was that the US was no longer where the strong crypto work was being done. If you developed it in the US you couldn’t export it, but if you developed it outside the US then you could import it — so most crypto work moved to other nations. This is an often overlooked point of how those laws weakened US security.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Tech execs say privacy should be the paramount virtue,” Comey continued, “When I hear that I close my eyes and try to image what the world looks like where pedophiles can’t be seen, kidnapper can’t be seen, drug dealers can’t be seen.”

“Tech execs say privacy should be the paramount virtue,” Comey continued, “When I hear that I close my eyes and try to image what the world looks like where we actually have to do some real police work for a change.

FTFY

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Most criminals don't realize they're criminals

…or that they’re going to be caught and charged for their crimes.

That’s because most criminals are folks like you and me averaging our three-felonies-a-day and committing crimes as heinous as smoking pot in the safety and privacy of our own homes.

But yeah, professional criminals have other sources than the FBI website to track how law enforcement is scheming to catch them, and how to cover their tracks.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Since Comey’s point is to keep your phones unencrypted so that they can violate your rights whenever they want, likely even against your will, for any reason, I wonder how well his please will fly for our other rights:

“We’re drifting to a place where a whole lot of people are going to look at us with tears in their eyes,” he told the House Appropriations Committee, describing a hypothetical in which an alleged kidnapper was found not guilty after being allowed to have legal representation who crossexamined witnesses at the trial.

“We’re drifting to a place where a whole lot of people are going to look at us with tears in their eyes,” he told the House Appropriations Committee, describing a hypothetical in which invading Canadians attack a small town because US armed forces were not allowed to be stationed in private homes.

“We’re drifting to a place where a whole lot of people are going to look at us with tears in their eyes,” he told the House Appropriations Committee, describing a hypothetical in which citizens, dissatisfied with their government, held a protest.

Huh, that plea is stupid and dangerous no matter what.

Padpaw (profile) says:

Re: Re:

the police are already violating the no troops in private homes.

Was a story where they forced a woman out of her home so they could spy on her neighbor. Simply because they believe they are above the law or they don’t have a clue about the laws they are supposed to be enforcing.

http://www.policestateusa.com/2014/swat-team-took-innocent-womans-house-without-permission/

Anonymous Coward says:

All “bad people” must be stopped, even if it means destroying all of our freedoms

This is a depressingly common attitude among the law enforcement community. I used to know (we’ve since drifted apart – you’ll guess why) a prosecutor who seemed entirely too happy when discussing how hard she could come down on various cases — moving to forfeit houses, search warrants that pretty much commanded the cops to demolish the target residence (break open walls, empty out everything that might be a container, …) in hope of finding small items of contraband, etc. Of course, to hear her tell it, this was always totally justified, perfectly legal, and thus there was no reason to compensate the searchee for the extensive repair costs incurred after the cops finished trashing the place.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

People in power have had this attitude for as long as there have been people in power. They (like almost everyone) think of themselves as good guys whose every action is justified. This is how abuse begins and continues.

This is also why it’s important to severely restrict and monitor what law enforcement is able to do. While cops will always view those restrictions as unnecessary and preventing them from doing their jobs (because they view themselves as Good Guys who are always right), the fact is that the restrictions are necessary in order to protect the citizenry from the cops.

History (even US history) is rife with examples of what happens when you loosen those restrictions. It’s never pretty.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Law abiding citizens is a sucky standard.

First, we have sucky laws. People commit three felonies a day on average, thanks to sucky laws.

Then we have sucky due process. Someone’s abducted by the police at the wrong place at the wrong time and then they lie about it to secure a conviction. Judges favor police testimony over video that contradicts it. This is so common that we probably have more false convictions in the prison system than those actually guilty (we don’t know — due process is the means by which we measure such things).

And then, the reason that guns are in the hands of people is to discourage and if necessary to retaliate when our laws and due process get too sucky. Our Bill-of-Rights framers knew that human liberties only had a half-life and that only the Sword of Damocles would keep our administrators in line.

Every dissenter who would dare to take action would fall out of that subset you call law abiding citizens.

To be fair, I’m ranting. You only described gun control and inferred that you’re advocating it.

Please don’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Dear FBI

Government Organizations since the beginning only do one thing! Destroy peoples lives. Sometimes this is a good thing… as in you are destroying criminals lives, ya know those that deserve it and just like every other decent citizen wants and needs. However, when you get the idea that those same citizens do not need any protection from YOU as well… then guess what happens… YOU BECOME THE CRIMINALS!

You ALREADY ARE! Now its just a bunch of government thugs vs the common thug.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m not sure if this guy knows this but part of living in a “supposedly” free society inherently entails SOME risk and I’m fine with that.

I don’t know about Chromy here but I’d rather have some bad people on the street than having your agency constantly breathing down my neck looking at what I do.

In any decent society cops should be more restrained than that of criminals. That’s how life works.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:

” …I’d rather have some bad people on the street… “

Hell, compared to the bad people behind the doors in the halls of power, you could call the worst of the street villains, just plain Joe Six-packs with a second job.

Steal a loaf of bread from a grocery store, and serve 3 years in prison.

Steal 30 billion dollars from half of America, and get a promotion, a raise in pay, and 3 bonus bimbos, or one disposable child of your choice – (the bank of CCC option).

Justice aint blind.

It left the country back in 1960, for places unknown.

Anonymous Coward says:

So Comey would be happy to drop his unencrypted, un-password-protected cellphone in a mall, in a park, leave it on a park bench, accidentally leave it in an unlocked briefcase in a parking lot ? If not, why not? And if, since he has official secrets to protect, he “has” to protect his phone then how about his wife, daughter, lawyer, banker? Or is it “secrets for me but not for thee”?

jack ab says:

Hypothecial

“describing a hypothetical in which a kidnapped young girl’s phone is discovered but can’t be unlocked.”

Seems like a perfect case for encryption.

Unless you want some stranger or cop to jack off to your nude selfies and share them with friends and colleagues, or read your intimate messages to your boyfriend.

Plus knowing law enforcement these days, they’ll just pick the lowest hanging fruit, i.e. the person with whom you shared weirdest messages or most explicit pictures, harass that person and make him/her look guilty. Because doing a real investigation would be just too hard.

beltorak (profile) says:

this is straight out of animal farm

… Clover, who thought she remembered a definite ruling against beds, went to the end of the barn and tried to puzzle out the Seven Commandments which were inscribed there. Finding herself unable to read more than individual letters, she fetched Muriel.

“Muriel,” she said, “read me the Fourth Commandment. Does it not say something about never sleeping in a bed?”

With some difficulty Muriel spelt it out.

“It says, ‘No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets,”’ she announced finally.

Curiously enough, Clover had not remembered that the Fourth Commandment mentioned sheets; but as it was there on the wall, it must have done so. And Squealer, who happened to be passing at this moment, attended by two or three dogs, was able to put the whole matter in its proper perspective.

“You have heard then, comrades,” he said, “that we pigs now sleep in the beds of the farmhouse? And why not? You did not suppose, surely, that there was ever a ruling against beds? A bed merely means a place to sleep in. A pile of straw in a stall is a bed, properly regarded. The rule was against sheets, which are a human invention. We have removed the sheets from the farmhouse beds, and sleep between blankets. And very comfortable beds they are too! But not more comfortable than we need, I can tell you, comrades, with all the brainwork we have to do nowadays. You would not rob us of our repose, would you, comrades? You would not have us too tired to carry out our duties? Surely none of you wishes to see Jones back?”

– George Orwell, Animal Farm; http://www.george-orwell.org/Animal_Farm/5.html

Zonker says:

I would imagine that in a world where pedophiles, kidnappers, and drug dealers could not been seen, it would hopefully be because there were none of them to be seen. Otherwise they must be seen by somebody, at the very least by the victim.

Thing is, nobody is a pedophile or a kidnapper or a drug dealer until they actually commit the acts involved. Although deterring and preventing crime is good, that is not the job of law enforcement. Their job is to prosecute violations of the law after they’ve occurred.

In order to prosecute future crimes that have not yet happened, you would have to strip people of their free will. Thought crimes would be a thing, and nearly everyone would be guilty whether they ever would have carried out that thought or not.

I don’t see how opening people’s phones to be targeted for identity theft or theft of their private information would reduce crime at all. I think it would greatly increase crime against those left vulnerable. Would removing locks from all front doors reduce crime, or would burglaries and home invasions skyrocket? It would sure make police searches a lot easier though if they didn’t have to break the door down to enter your home, but at what cost?

How about the hypothetical that a kidnapped young girl could not be saved because their captor locked the front door and police could not get inside in time to save her? Would the ends (saving that one hypothetical girl) justify the means (opening everyone’s home to anyone who happens to find the front door unlocked)?

Stephen says:

Curtains, Blinds, and Other FBI Impediments

I look forward tp the FBI complaining about homeowners using curtains and blinds to cover windows, thereby preventing law enforcement officials uncovering crimes going on inside.

I can just see it now…

“’We’re drifting to a place where a whole lot of people are going to look at us with tears in their eyes,’ [Comey] told the House Appropriations Committee, describing a hypothetical in which a kidnapped young girl could not be discovered because FBI agents were prevented by curtains, blinds, and [window] shades from looking through windows to discover the girl’s whereabouts.”

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s as if Comey has absolutely no concept of a cost-benefit analysis. All “bad people” must be stopped, even if it means destroying all of our freedoms, based on what he has to say. That’s insane — and raises serious questions about his competence to lead a government agency charged with protecting the Constitution.

Oh he absolutely has a concept of a cost-benefit analysis.

The benefit is both to himself and the “ruling class” and the cost doesn’t really affect them: we already know the law has looked the other way for influential people in the past.

Imagine that if law enforcement could keep an eye 24/7 on every citizen, all sorts of minor, currently ignored, transgressions would end up record.

Obviously there’s no way to jail half of the U.S. but between fines, bails and forced community service the budgets would get a healthy boost.

Not to mention using this info in plea bargains or as blackmail to shut up dissident opinions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Also do you really think the Ted Bundies and Charles Mansons would be so dumb as to commit their crimes in plain sight or in their own home ?

Sure they might catch a few extra idiot thieves/kidnappers/murderers per year but is it really worth the cost to the rest of society ?

One use for this will be putting people on the sex offender register for watching legal adult material that the officer inspecting the camera thinks is illegal or reading smut or some other BS like that.

Sure you can appeal in court and prove your innocence (properly published seedy materials have records that prove they’re legal), but it’ll be too late. You’ll be “that guy who was on the sex offenders list” for the rest of your life.

I guess there’s some appeal to having citizens self-censor their private lives according to the agenda of whoever’s in power at that moment.

philnc (profile) says:

Public service

All this shows is what I think everyone already knew: there are in fact real public servants working in government. The problem has always been that those sorts of people rarely get into positions of management or leadership. That’s why I can still show respect to individual FBI agents but deride the organization itself. The same is true of local law enforcement. Individual cops on the beat can demonstrate incredible levels of professionalism, compassion and bravery — but those running the show are often as sociopathic as the miscreants they’re supposed to be protecting us against.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Public service

“The problem has always been that those sorts of people rarely get into positions of management or leadership.”

The bigger problem is that good people don’t make headlines and are essentially invisible, and that they are limited by corrupted bureaucracies in terms of how much good they can actually do.

“That’s why I can still show respect to individual FBI agents”

I don’t give any law enforcement officer respect above what I give to any other random person until they demonstrate that they are worthy of it. There are many law enforcement officers who are, as you say, excellent and professional, and there are many who are not. Since you can’t tell which is which by looking at them, the only reasonable thing to do is treat them no differently than any other random person.

GEMont (profile) says:

Exit Stage Left

” That’s insane — and raises serious questions about his competence to lead a government agency charged with protecting the Constitution.”

Well, that would be insane, if he was actually leading a government agency charged with protecting the Constitution…

but its perfectly sane, if he happens to be nothing more than the PR man for a criminal organization hell bent on knowing what all the peasants they’re robbing blind, happen to be doing and saying to each other 24/7, in order to see the revolution before it arrives and be able to get on that waiting Lear jet to China, Russia and Spain, before the fully impoverished peasants start tearing down the edifices of power, looking for heads to stick on their pikes.

Iwp (profile) says:

You dummy! You shouldn't have told the FBI about

the ternetInay chiveAray! Now they’ll start censoring it, too!
Another tip: the FBI’s job isn’t now (nor has it ever been) “to keep Americans safe”. The FBI is the political police of the US capitalist class who own and run this country; the FBI’s primary purpose is to disrupt and destroy every attempt of the US working class to unite across racial lines and to fight for workers’ rights. The FBI is the US’ version of the Nazis’ SS.
As soon as we read your comment that the FBI had disappeared the pro-encryption article from their website we went to the “you-know-what” to look for it and we laughed our collective ass off when we saw, quite predictably, that it was there. The FBI is as incompetent as they are vicious and ready to trash the US Constitution and Bill of Rights at every opportunity in defense of the “inalienable rights” of the 1%. The only people who are unsure as to which side of the encryption question the FBI’s brain trust will finally set up their prosecutorial abbatoir upon are those who know nothing of the FBI’s long and sordid – and consistent – history of wiping their asses with the Bill of Rights.

Independent Workers Party of Chicago

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