Mike Masnick Explains: Apple Versus The FBI

from the in-case-you-were-wondering dept

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While the DOJ may be thinking about ways to weasel out of the San Bernardino fight with Apple, the underlying fight about backdooring encryption remains. The DOJ may focus on other cases, such as the one in NY, where the facts line up a bit more in its favor, or elsewhere. Or we may soon see legislation to backdoor encryption.

We’ve seen so much confusion and misinformation going around, that I thought it might be useful to create a short “explainer video” that shows why this is such a big deal, and why everyone should be supporting Apple, in this case, against the Justice Department (and against any legislation that requires backdoors). Please check it out and share it.

This is the kind of thing we’d like to do a lot more of, but it takes a fair bit of time to get ready. If you like this and would like to see us do more videos like this, please support our crowdfunding campaign that ends this week…

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Comments on “Mike Masnick Explains: Apple Versus The FBI”

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19 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Practical politics

… more as an indictment of politics than an indictment of explaining.

Oh, I’m not sure it’s even true. It may be more truthy than truthful.

Otoh, it is probably safe to say that Ronald Reagan had better political skills than you or me. He got to be president after all—and you’re not Barack Obama.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Practical politics

Oh, I’m not sure it’s even true. It may be more truthy than truthful.

Yeah, pretty sure that’s not true.

Otoh, it is probably safe to say that Ronald Reagan had better political skills than you or me. He got to be president after all—and you’re not Barack Obama.

A few other thoughts on this:

1. Small sample size issue with your survey here…
2. I’m not running for office. Even if this applies, it applies only to running for office. But explaining can actually help a lot in terms of the process itself. For example, see this article that was written for us by a former Congressional staffer on our last crowdfunding campaign about how useful our explanations were in the process: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140729/05504028040/if-you-want-to-know-how-supporting-techdirt-can-help-shift-debate-washington-dc-read-this.shtml

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Practical politics

A few other thoughts on this

The big one you didn’t list is the changed media environment—due to the ‘net.

There’s a difference between viewing the world through TV in the ’80s and YouTube today. A difference that slips in unnoticed a lot of the time. Even more subtle is the impact of YouTube on a habitual TV couch potato, as opposed to the impact of YouTube on someone who spends much of their time with comments and PDFs.

In short, there’s no guarantee that Reagan’s ’80s communication style would be at all effective in today’s media environment. His “explaining” maxim might be simply obsolete.

Or not.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 If you're explaining, you're losing

The Larry Lessig version is

It’s a bumper sticker culture. People have to get it like that, and if they don’t, if it takes three seconds to make them understand, you’re off their radar screen.

Note that takes more than three seconds to say.

I think if you’re explaining, you’re losing people. Specifically you’re losing the ones who can’t think past OMG TERRORISM!.

You’re also gaining people. The people who think about things.

My fear is that the people lost from the first group would overwhelm and route the people gained from the second group.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 If you're explaining, you're losing

I think if you’re explaining, you’re losing people. Specifically you’re losing the ones who can’t think past OMG TERRORISM!.

I disagree. That’s an easy excuse and it’s insulting. It reminds me of the “but… piracy!” excuse that we always heard on the copyright debate. But the people who explained things and why it’s not just about piracy tended to win out in the end. And that’s happening here as well.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 If you're explaining, you're losing

I commend the benefit of doubt you give to us ordinary shlubs, and I hope you’re right that an explanation simple enough or funny enough or clear enough will get through.

My experiences have been different, but are anecdotal.

I guess so long as we don’t have statistics telling us the people are idiots with short attention spans, I’ll retain the hope that they aren’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Practical politics

Ronald Reagan

Speaking of Ronald Reagan, I just ran across this, via NPR, “From Reagan’s Cyber Plan To Apple Vs. FBI: ‘Everything Is Up For Grabs’ ” (Mar 22, 2016)…

Excerpt: Dark Territory (Book by Fred Kaplan)

Dark Territory
CHAPTER 1
“COULD SOMETHING LIKE THIS REALLY HAPPEN?”

IT was Saturday, June 4, 1983, and President Ronald Reagan spent the day at Camp David, relaxing, reading some papers, then, after dinner, settling in, as he often did, to watch a movie. That night’s feature was WarGames, starring Matthew Broderick as a tech-whiz teenager who unwittingly hacks into the main computer at NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and, thinking that he’s playing a new computer game, nearly triggers World War III. . . .

To bring this item back around a little bit and focus on the present topic, what you’re looking at here is someone who’s not so much explaining—as he’s telling his audience some stories. Interesting stories.

Steve R. (profile) says:

FBI Needs to Get Back to Old Fashioned Footwork

Two points on this issue that seem to be overlooked.

1. Do we have any reason to suspect that there would be any useful information on that phone? Obviously, that can’t be determined now, but there may be indirect evidence to imply an answer.

2. Next, all communications between the phone and the outside world would have been expected to go through the phone company. That would imply that the FBI can follow-up on those leads by getting information from the phone company. In turn, that would imply that breaking into the phone would really not be necessary as the FBI could do old fashioned footwork to interview those sending/receiving phone calls and text messages from that phone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: FBI Needs to Get Back to Old Fashioned Footwork

FBI can follow-up on those leads by getting information from the phone company.

I really don’t want to stray too far away from talking about Mike’s Explainer video here.

But there’s some info that people who haven’t been following the story super closely may have missed earlier. So I’ll repeat it—

NSA chief: ‘Paris would not have happened’ without encrypted apps”, by Michael Isikoff, Yahoo, Feb 17, 2016

In an exclusive interview with Yahoo News . . . [National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers] confirmed for the first time that the law was used successfully by the NSA after the San Bernardino terror attack to retrieve the phone records of the two perpetrators, and the agency “didn’t find any direct overseas connections.”

(Emphasis added.)

Awhile ago, Marcy Wheeler was banging on this factoid a little bit. (“Amid an Inconclusive Answer on Encryption, Hillary Reveals She Doesn’t Understand How Metadata Works”, Emptywheel, Mar 7, 2016.)

Right in the middle, however, Hillary reveals not understanding a key part of this controversy. To the extent Syed Rizwan Farook used the Apple software on his work phone to communicate with accomplices, we know who he communicated with, because we have that metadata (as Admiral Mike Rogers recently confirmed). We just don’t know what he said.

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