FBI Director Angry At Homebuilders For Putting Up Walls That Hide Any Crimes Therein
from the wtf dept
On Thursday, FBI boss James Comey displayed not only a weak understanding of privacy and encryption, but also what the phrase "above the law" means, in slamming Apple and Google for making encryption a default:
"I am a huge believer in the rule of law, but I am also a believer that no one in this country is above the law," Comey told reporters at FBI headquarters in Washington. "What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves above the law."First of all, nothing in what either Apple or Google is doing puts anyone "above the law." It just says that those companies are better protecting the privacy of their users. There are lots of things that make law enforcement's job harder that also better protect everyone's privacy. That includes walls. If only there were no walls, it would be much easier to spot crimes being committed. And I'm sure some crimes happen behind walls that make it difficult for the FBI to track down what happened. But we don't see James Comey claiming that homebuilders are allowing people to be "above the law" by building houses with walls.
"There will come a day -- well it comes every day in this business -- when it will matter a great, great deal to the lives of people of all kinds that we be able to with judicial authorization gain access to a kidnapper's or a terrorist or a criminal's device. I just want to make sure we have a good conversation in this country before that day comes. I'd hate to have people look at me and say, 'Well how come you can't save this kid,' 'how come you can't do this thing.'"
"I get that the post-Snowden world has started an understandable pendulum swing," he said. "What I'm worried about is, this is an indication to us as a country and as a people that, boy, maybe that pendulum swung too far."Wait, what? The "pendulum" hasn't swung at all. To date, there has been no legal change in the surveillance laws post-Snowden. The pendulum is just as far over towards the extreme surveillance state as it has been since Snowden first came on the scene. This isn't the pendulum "swinging too far." It's not even the pendulum swinging. This is just Apple and Google making a tiny shift to better protect privacy.
As Christopher Soghoian points out, why isn't Comey screaming about the manufacturers of paper shredders, which similarly allow their customers to hide papers from "lawful surveillance?"
But, of course, the freaking out continues. Over in the Washington Post, there's this bit of insanity:
“Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile,” said John J. Escalante, chief of detectives for Chicago’s police department. “The average pedophile at this point is probably thinking, I’ve got to get an Apple phone.”Um. No. That's just ridiculous. Frankly, if pedophiles are even thinking about encryption, it's likely that they already are using one of the many encryption products already on the market. And, again, this demonizing of encryption as if it's only a tool of pedophiles and criminals is just ridiculous. Regular everyday people use encryption every single day. You're using it if you visit this very website. And it's increasingly becoming the standard, because that's just good security.