President Obama: I'm A Big Believer In Strong Encryption... But...

from the let's-drop-the-but-part dept

Last Friday, at the White House's Cybersecurity Summit at Stanford, reporter Kara Swisher sat down for a half-hour interview with President Obama (and she even dragged her famous red chairs along). It's a better, more in-depth interview than you're ever likely to see from the established mainstream press, and touches on a variety of issues regarding technology and security. While I don't agree with some of the answers, I will say that the President appears to be extremely well-briefed on these issues, and didn't make any totally ridiculous or glaringly misleading remarks. You can see the whole interview here:
In it, he admits that the "Snowden disclosures" (as he calls them) hurt "trust" between DC and the tech industry, and admits that the government has been "a little slow" in updating the laws for how the NSA operates online. However, he does say that surveillance on US persons is very carefully controlled and that he can say "with almost complete certainty that there haven't been abuses on US soil." He admits that's not entirely the case overseas, where there are basically no limits on the NSA's surveillance, and he recognizes that needs to change. Of course, if that's the case, he can do that right now -- because the NSA's authority for all of that is an executive order, 12333, and he could revoke it and write a new one. But he hasn't.

Then he gets to the area I found most interesting and want to focus on, the question of encryption. After discussing how he's looking to update the rules for surveillance and his relationship with tech, the interview proceeds like this:
Obama: There's still some issues like encryption...

Swisher: Let's talk about encryption.

Obama: ... that are challenging, and that's something that's been brought up...

Swisher: What's wrong with what Google and Apple are doing? You have encrypted email.

Obama: Absolutely.

Swisher: Shouldn't everybody have encrypted email and have their protections?

Obama: Everybody should. And I'm a strong believer in strong encryption. Where the tension has come up, is historically what's happened is that... let's say you knew a particular person was involved in a terrorist plot, and the FBI is trying to figure out who else are they trying to communicate with to prevent the plot. Traditionally, what's been able to happen is they get a court order, the FBI goes to the company, they request those records, the same way they'd go get a court order to request a wiretap. The company technically can comply.

The issue here is, partly in response to consumer demand, partly in response to legitimate concerns about consumer privacy, the technologies may be built to a point where, when the government goes...

Swisher: They can't get the information.

Obama: ... the company says "sorry, we just can't pull it. It's so sealed and tight that even though the government has a legitimate request, technologically we cannot do it."

Swisher: Is what they're doing wrong?

Obama: No. I think they are properly responding to a market demand. All of us are really concerned about making sure our...

Swisher: So what are you going to do?

Obama: Well, what we're going to try to do is see if there's a way for us to narrow this gap. Ultimately, everybody -- and certainly this is true for me and my family -- we all want to know if we're using a smartphone for transactions, sending messages, having private conversations, we don't have a bunch of people compromising that process. There's no scenario in which we don't want really strong encryption.

The narrow question is going to be: if there is a proper request for -- this isn't bulk collection, this isn't fishing expeditions by government -- where there's a situation in which we're trying to get a specific case of a possible national security threat, is there a way of accessing it? If it turns out there's not, then we're really going to have to have a public debate. And, I think some in Silicon Valley would make the argument -- which is a fair argument, and I get -- that the harms done by having any kind of compromised encryption are far greater than...

Swisher: That's an argument you used to make, you would have made. Has something changed?

Obama: No, I still make it. It's just that I'm sympathetic to law enforcement...

Swisher: Why? What happened? Because you were much stronger on...

Obama: No, I'm as strong as I have been. I think the only concern is... our law enforcement is expected to stop every plot. Every attack. Any bomb on a plane. The first time that attack takes place, where it turns out we had a lead and couldn't follow up on it, the public's going to demand answers. This is a public conversation that we should be having. I lean probably further in the direction of strong encryption than some do inside law enforcement. But I am sympathetic to law enforcement, because I know the kind of pressure they're under to keep us safe. And it's not as black and white as it's sometimes portrayed. Now, in fairness, I think those in favor of air tight encryption also want to be protected from terrorists.

Swisher: True.

Obama: One of the interesting things about being in this job, is that it does give you a bird's eye view. You are smack dab in the middle of these tensions that exist. But, there are times where folks who see this through a civil liberties or privacy lens reject that there's any tradeoffs involved. And, in fact, there are. And you've got to own the fact that it may be that we want to value privacy and civil liberties far more than we do the safety issues. But we can't pretend that there are no tradeoffs whatsoever.
I actually think this is a very good, nuanced answer to this issue. It doesn't descend into hyperbole about child predators and ticking time bombs like law enforcement officials have done. He admits that there are tradeoffs and, at least publicly, seems to be willing to admit that stronger encryption without compromise might be the best solution.

Of course, where we're left with questions is about his requested "public debate." Where and how is that happening? Because, to date, the only noise on this issue coming out of his administration has been on the other side, pushing for new legislation that would require backdoors and compromise encryption. We haven't seen anyone in the administration presenting the other side at all. And, for those of us who strongly believe that a basic cost/benefit analysis of weakening encryption vs. letting law enforcement do their job through traditional detective work would show that the "costs" of weakened encryption vastly outweigh the "threats" of criminals getting away with stuff, it would be nice to see the government at least recognizing that as well.

President Obama chides civil liberties and privacy folks for not getting that there are tradeoffs here, and I don't think that's accurate. Most do recognize the tradeoffs. It's just that they believe the true benefit in terms of "stopping criminals" to weakening encryption is not very great, while the cost to everyone in risking their own privacy is massive. What we have not seen is any indication that law enforcement recognizes that there are tradeoffs, or that they care. Yes, as the President admits, they're weighing some of this against "not getting blamed" when an inevitable "bad event" happens -- but they don't seem to be willing to recognize, at all, the risks to everyone's privacy. That's why they keep talking about golden keys and magic wizards who can make special encryption that only good guys can use.

So I'm glad that the President at least seems to recognize this is a nuanced issue with tradeoffs, but I wish that others in his administration, especially from the law enforcement side, were willing to recognize that as well.

Filed Under: barack obama, cybersecurity, encryption, kara swisher, law enforcement, mobile encryption, national security, president obama, privacy, security, surveillance


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 6:02am

    You made your bed, now sleep in it

    This is something that even children can understand, the idea that if you cannot show responsibility with your toys, you'll have them taken away, and yet it seems to completely escape the government and law enforcement. They've had their chance, to act in a reasonable fashion, to show that they can be trusted, and they have utterly failed.

    If people and companies are moving towards phones that are encrypted by default and require the owner to personally unlock them, it's because law enforcement has proven that they cannot be trusted to follow the laws that prohibit them from 'browsing' on a whim or hunch.

    If society and the companies in it are pushing for more encryption, and more secure forms of communication, it's because those like the NSA have shown absolutely no restraint in scooping up everything they can get their hands on, just in case it might prove useful at some point down the road.

    The government, and the police, have shown that they cannot be trusted, and the public is reacting accordingly. It would be nice if those in the government and police forces were willing and able to admit this, but given that would require them to first admit that they've done something wrong, I'll not hold my breath while waiting for it to happen.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 7:47am

    His entire logic is completely shred to pieces with a single phrase:
    Terrorists use encryption.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 7:54am

      Re:

      Actually it seems his argument incorporates that idea, and uses it to argue that since criminals and terrorists use encryption, then that means that there needs to be ways for the government and/or police to 'side-step' that encryption without tipping off their target. The fact that any backdoor or 'golden key' that would allow the government/police to do this would also be a massive security hole for anyone else who finds it is something they generally ignore or try and brush off.

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    • icon
      Gumnos (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:14am

      Re: Terrorists use encryption

      Terrorists also use oxygen.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:28am

        Re: Re: Terrorists use encryption

        100% of terrorists buy food from grocery stores.

        So if we ban grocery stores then the terrorists will all starve to death!

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    • icon
      Designerfx (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:29am

      Re:

      Yeah, I have to say as soon as I read "terrorists" I read "we're using bullshit to get what we want", because that's what I read any time I hear responses about terrorism when we're talking about both international AND domestic spying.

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      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:35am

        Re: Re:

        The fear word used to be 'communists'.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 11:00am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Those communist terrorists! They can't accept that we have some good things going.

          The solution: If we stop the good things they won't have a reason to exist. Obviously the best way to stop them is to stop the good things!

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        • identicon
          Pragmatic, 19 Feb 2015 @ 3:00am

          Re: Re: Re:

          It's 'socialists' now. They're coming to get you, Barbara. Muahahahahaha! They're coming for you. They're very hungry...

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    • icon
      dave blevins (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 1:13pm

      Re: Terrorists use encryption.

      Terrorist use encryption.
      Government uses encryption.
      Therefore, Government is a Terrorist.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 7:57am

    A little like saying "I'm a big believer in human rights...but torture works".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Tedd, 18 Feb 2015 @ 5:01pm

      Re:

      But that's a perfectly reasonable thing to say. You seem to think that acknowledging that torture works is somehow an endorsement of torture, but whether it works and whether it should be used are entirely different questions. It's unnecessary, and not very smart, to try to argue that torture doesn't work just because you believe torture shouldn't be used.

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      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 18 Feb 2015 @ 5:57pm

        Going on a philosophical tangent...

        I think the question of whether or not torture works can be used to inform whether or not it is acceptable.

        Not only that, we can get into the question of how well interrogation techniques that use coercion work over those that don't, and how that should inform the moral issue of whether or not a state can endorse torture while still addressing human rights concerns.

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        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 19 Feb 2015 @ 8:36am

          Re: Going on a philosophical tangent...

          "we can get into the question of how well interrogation techniques that use coercion work over those that don't,"


          Wait, I think a goalpost moved here, since you've started saying "coercion" instead of "torture". They are different things. All interrogation techniques are coercive techniques, but most aren't torture. Also, not all torture is used as a coercive technique.

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          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 19 Feb 2015 @ 11:35am

            Interrogation vs. Coercion vs. Torture

            You're right. They're not the same thing.

            Interrogation is merely asking questions. There may be an implication of purpose in the word, such as for inquisitional or investigatory purposes. But an interrogation is at its basest, no different from an interview. No coercion is required.

            Coerced interrogation (e.g. answer my questions truthfully or I will make your life / your family's life less pleasant) falls into the same spectrum as enhanced interrogation (that is, interrogation with torture). Light forms of coercion, e.g. denying them food, hygiene and bathroom facilities, or even threatening torture (without ever resorting to it) might be considered as not technically torture by some. But if coercion by torture doesn't work, neither would coercion by not technically torture. If coercion by torture does work, then it figures you could do enough to a man that is not technically torture to be as effective as torture.

            Torture without coercion (e.g. working a prisoner over regardless of how he answers questions) is not coercive interrogation, it's just torture, and at that point since the purpose of the torture comes to question, it's hard to argue that it works. I guess one can argue that if you make a prisoner miserable, he'll be less capable of guarding himself. He may also be more resentful and defiant. He also may be so damaged as a result of the torture that he is incapable of answering questions soundly.

            So yeah, I did move the goalposts...back further and wider apart. I think the question of whether torture is right informs the question of whether more common practices are right (testimony deals, plea bargaining, back-room police interrogation techniques, Your daughter is a sweet kid. Shame if we had to bring her in too. et. al.).

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      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 19 Feb 2015 @ 8:33am

        Re: Re:

        "You seem to think that acknowledging that torture works is somehow an endorsement of torture"

        Perhaps because every single time someone claims that torture works, it's part of a larger argument that it's perfectly fine and desirable for the US to be doing it.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:06am

    Uh... yeah

    "our law enforcement is expected to stop every plot. Every attack. Any bomb on a plane. The first time that attack takes place, where it turns out we had a lead and couldn't follow up on it, the public's going to demand answers."

    Considering our government and law enforcement agencies have been raping our privacy and civil liberties for the last decade and more, you're damn right!

    Personally, I would have been much happier if we didn't stop every plot, and I didn't have to worry about what my government was snooping on - but I can see that will never happen.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 11:32am

      Re: Uh... yeah

      They haven't stopped any plots. Unless you count the ones that the FBI creates then forces down the throat of the next patsy with a double-digit IQ.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:08am

    Friendly reminder that he can lie as much as he wants and he will get away with it. People will believe him because his kind can never do anything wrong.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:11am

    Sooner or later it is going to get to the point where they know about and purposely allow another terrorist attack on US soil so we all collectively shit our pants and give them full access again. Just like they allowed three planes to fly into buildings 13 years ago so they could pass the laws to "legally" get the access they've enjoyed since.

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    • icon
      Tony (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 12:47pm

      Re:

      "Just like they allowed three planes to fly into buildings 13 years ago..."

      I used to think that was nutjob conspiracy theory crap.

      Not so much anymore

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:16am

    Governments cannot stop private conversation, held person to person, where they do not know they happened, never mind the contents. With encrypted message exchange, they know they happened, but they should have no more rights to the contents than with private face to face conversations.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:21am

    But, there are times where folks who see this through a civil liberties or privacy lens reject that there's any tradeoffs involved. And, in fact, there are.
    I know what the NSA does with all the haystacks they collect after they finish sifting through 'em. They give them to the President so he has enough material to build straw men.

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  • icon
    TasMot (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:26am

    A big part of the situation that doesn't really seem to come up in these types of "conversations" is that Google, Apple, and etc. are just preventing the massive scooping up of private citizens emails by encrypting it by default. Since the "terrorists" out there know that this is happening, or at least if I were worried about someone listening in on my conversation, I would encrypt the message before it ever got into an email. Then the provider would encrypt it again "across the wires". The encryption key I used would never be available to anyone else to "provide" to the government. The US Government already tried to make encryption software illegal by declaring it a munition. With open source encryption like OpenSSL and PGP or GPG, the "magic Golden Key" would be discovered and removed.
    This conversation is just about spying on everybody who doesn't care or doesn't know any better. It is not going to stop the determined terrorist who doesn't want their communications read.

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    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:45am

      Re:

      Declaring encryption a munition ended up putting US companies at a significant competitive disadvantage.

      You could import good cryptography from abroad. But you could not export it. So guess where all the good crypto products were developed? When anyone outside the US needed a product that contained any crypto technology, guess which country could NOT sell it to them? That means the US companies could not sell secure products to 94 % of the world's population.

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      • identicon
        Rekrul, 17 Feb 2015 @ 5:23pm

        Re: Re:

        I remember many years ago, I wanted the command line Zip/Unzip programs, but I wanted the version of Zip which had encryption. It could only be downloaded from sites outside the US.

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  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:30am

    Tradeoff

    And you've got to own the fact that it may be that we want to value privacy and civil liberties far more than we do the safety issues.


    I value privacy and freedom far more than the potential benefit of being constantly spied on, but I think that he's glossing over something here -- the tradeoff is not nearly as clear-cut as he characterizes it. He seems to be assuming that LEOs don't present a risk to safety, but I think it's clear that they do. So it's not a simple equation where giving up privacy and liberty to them increases safety. It also increases danger from those very agencies.

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    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:47am

      Re: Tradeoff

      The problem is that Obama treats the phrase 'law enforcement' as a monolithic entity with a single unified purpose, coherent standards of behavior, and consistent prosecution of those abusing the public trust.

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  • identicon
    David, 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:31am

    Having the public debate.

    Now that the cat is out of the bag, and they have sown the seeds of distrust, LOVEINT, without warrant or notification tapped inter-datacenter communication links of Google and I'm sure others. NOW they want the debate. No, it's not a debate they want, it's a capitulation in principles that gives them access to things they want. The merits of encryption require no debate - it works and insures the privacy of the citizen. The 'debate' is how to break that privacy, often without the citizen being aware, and providing the complicit corporations legal protections in exchange for not having the government take action against the corporation.

    Or have I become too cynical and have my tin-foil hat on too tight?

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    • icon
      jilocasin (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 11:05am

      Re: Having the public debate.

      farmer: "These good solid locks and self locking doors should keep my animals from 'wandering off' again.

      gov: "Yes, while we were spying on the milk maid, all of the horses, cows, chickens, pigs, and we believe field mice have all managed to escape the barn"

      farmer: "I understand that last time you got the barn manufacturer to 'let you in'.

      gov: "I assure you it was all completely legal and above board"

      farmer: "I didn't see no warrant."

      gov: "A secret court had a secret review of our secret application based on a secret interpretation of a secret law."

      farmer: "Huh?"

      gov: "It was determined to be completely legal and above board, we are the most transparent administration the US has ever had."

      farmer: "Uh huh, I'm sure it was." {tightens screws, test locks}

      gov: "With these new self locking doors, we won't be able to indiscriminately, um I mean, stop the terrorists, pedophiles and other criminal elements."

      farmer:"...or milkmaids...."

      gov: "I think we should have a public debate before people start installing these more secure self locking doors."

      farmer: "I think you should have thought about that 'before' you let the horses, cows, pigs, chickens out of the barn. Why _were_ you spying on the milkmaid for anyway?"

      gov: "ummm... national security. It's all _very_ legal _very_ transparent..."

      farmer: "but you can't actually _show_ me a warrant?"

      gov: "National security, perfectly legal, most transparent ever...."

      farmer: "Yea, {closes door and shakes it to make sure it's locked} well I needs to buy me some more; horses, cows, pigs, and chickens."

      {walks away from the government man}

      gov: "don't forget those field mice......."

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 11:46am

      Re: Having the public debate.

      Yeah; I don't see the connection here:
      "The first time that attack takes place, where it turns out we had a lead and couldn't follow up on it, the public's going to demand answers."

      Newsflash: we have attacks that take place ALL THE TIME where it turns out there's a lead LEOs couldn't follow up on. The public demands answers, and the answer is "Our leads hit dead ends" or "we weren't able to gather enough intelligence."

      From a political perspective, THIS is the place to start the debate. Not with a bunch of conjecture. However, history has shown that instead of debate, the organization that gets hit with the media spotlight responds with apologies (or not) and finger pointing instead of "You know what? We need public debate on this issue, as it's obvious that more could have been done had we handled encryption differently as a country."

      Maybe the debate that needs to happen ISN'T between the public and law enforcement -- maybe what needs to happen is education of law enforcement and public officials, so they understand why end-to-end encryption is a necessary evil, and how they can change their procedures and media presentations to account for that (metadata anyone?).

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:32am

    Public debate

    Mr. Obama has previously called for a public debate on bulk surveillance in general, independent of the question of encryption. As a believer in fair queueing, I must advocate that the public debates be held in order. We can have a "public debate" about the value of weakening encryption after we have the "public debate" about the value of bulk surveillance.

    As for "not getting blamed" - well, if they want to play it that way, then I say we get to blame them each and every time something bad happens because someone exploited a cryptographic system that was deliberately weakened in the name of improved law enforcement. I include in that anything bad done by government employees that they were only able to do because the cryptographic system was weak.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 9:50am

      Re: Public debate

      I've got a news flash for him. The public has already been engaging in a debate over this for quite some time and as a result of this debate, tech companies have started listening to it. The results of that debate are the market pressure he's referring to. The public debate is already happening. He just has to join it.

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      • identicon
        New Mexico Mark, 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:24am

        Re: Re: Public debate

        Public debate has already been happening? Perhaps you don't understand. No discernible public debate has occurred until Mr. Obama holds secret councils with carefully selected people who will steer the "debate" in a predetermined direction. After this, the results of the "public debate" will be announced for the benefit of all the little people out there. Executive orders will follow shortly thereafter. Isn't that supposed to be the way the U.S. Government works?

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  • identicon
    David, 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:33am

    President Obama chides civil liberties and privacy folks for not getting that there are tradeoffs here,

    Oh, they get it. He traded off the Constitution without getting much in return. And he was not authorized to do that.

    When people said Obama was the first black president of the U.S.A., I thought they were referring to his complexion.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 3:29pm

      Re:

      It's just that I'm sympathetic to law enforcement
      What are 'Things You Would Never Expect To Hear From A Black Male', Alex?

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  • icon
    bureau13 (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:36am

    The "Snowden disclosures" didn't damage trust

    I keep hearing that Snowden's leaks have damaged the trust between government and the tech industry, but that's incorrect. The government's actions damaged that trust. If one of my kids breaks something he shouldn't be messing with and the other one rats him out, the second kid didn't "damage my trust" in the first. Let's put the blame squarely where it belongs.

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  • identicon
    mcinsand, 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:40am

    "I'm a big believer in..."

    AC wrote:

    "A little like saying "I'm a big believer in human
    rights...but torture works".

    Alternatively, let's also say:

    "I swore an oath to protect the constitution, but undermining it gives us even more tools to hunt for terrorists, especially if undermining it gives us tools that anyone can use, once they're discovered."

    We're weakening our protections in the name of security, but an exploit doesn't care who is using it. Stuxnet code is already being adapted as a weapon against us, right? Each weakness we add to software in the name of giving the NSA more power to protect us only hands our enemies another weapon.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:45am

    the "Snowden disclosures" (as he calls them) hurt "trust" between DC and the tech industry

    No, being distrustful and abusing power hurt the "trust" between DC and the tech industry. Snowden's documents merely shined a light on it, but the trust was hurt entirely due to the government's own actions, not the revelation of it.
    Please, PLEASE stop shooting the messenger.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 9:02am

    It's quite simple. Law enforcement and the intelligence community don't believe in the US Constitution. They never have. In fact I would argue that *most* of government at all levels do not believe in it.

    Sure, they give it lip service, but the bottom line is power, which is what most of them are about.

    They all swore to uphold it, yet they work as hard as they can to get around it. That is not the sign of people who believe in its principles.

    I'm becoming ashamed to be an American, not because I no longer agree with those principles, but because our principles have been sold to the highest bidder.

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  • icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 9:24am

    He's wrong on one point. I don't expect law enforcement to prevent crimes from happening. I expect them to apprehend people after crimes have happened. Their success at apprehending criminals is what prevents crime - knowing you can't get away with it.

    The attitude that "we must prevent crime" is the same attitude that makes everyone a potential suspect, since anyone is capable of committing a crime.

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    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 9:32am

      Re:

      Good catch. This notion that cops should prevent crime drives me nuts.

      However, he's not entirely wrong: if a terrorist attack were to happen, the various federal agencies will certainly catch a ton of hell from the public about it. However they will catch hell from the public no matter what they have or have not done. The solution to that problem isn't to become even more oppressive and strip the public of even more liberty, but for them to stop being so thin-skinned.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 9:35am

    Obama is having his nose shoved in the idea that people don't like this level of spying. More important than that, those big corporations that donate money to campaigns are saying something has to change and if it doesn't no more huge amounts of money for your party. Corporations are putting the pressure on because their bottom lines are effected in the global market where some potential customer says s/he no longer trusts American software or hardware.

    The first company that comes out and says we guarantee these spy agencies aren't in our product will walk away with the market if they don't force this issue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 9:41am

      Re:

      "The first company that comes out and says we guarantee these spy agencies aren't in our product will walk away with the market"

      How could any company actually be sure of that, though? It seems to me that any company that makes such a declaration, no matter how sure they are that it is true, is a company that is in danger of being sued out of existence when people find out that the product has been compromised.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:44am

      Re:

      The first company that comes out and says we guarantee these spy agencies aren't in our product will walk away with the market if they don't force this issue.

      The US agencies use gag orders, and tell companies to lie to their customers. This makes any such statement suspect from the get go.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2015 @ 4:15am

        Re: Re:

        I thought there was a case which determined that the government couldn't force you to make a positive false statement, only to punish you for saying something true if it is classified or false under a variety of laws.

        It would also help to make a sworn statement under another country's laws, with serious penalties for making a false statement, which one wouldn't be willing to do if one knew one was lying.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 7:27pm

      Re:

      The first company that comes out and says we guarantee these spy agencies aren't in our product will walk away with the market if they don't force this issue.

      As long as NSL's and gag orders exist, no US company can say that with any degree of honesty, because while it might be true then, nothing's stopping the government from coming in at a later date and demanding that they compromise their product, and blocking them from speaking out or challenging the order.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:01am

    Let's debate?

    Actually, that debate is already over. The public voiced it's preference: Strong encryption is what we want (and no golden keys for anyone)!

    It's just the politicians that don't accept the outcome and want to re-open the debate.

    That's not a debate, that's whining!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:11am

    Once the phone makers have a backdoor / Golden Key, then the information in a phone becomes a "business record" and we all know what happens to those records -- some EO opens them ALL up for Haystacking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:20am

    The Snowden disclosures didn't cause harm

    It was the actions of Intelligence agencies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 11:18am

    A world of acceptable risks

    "I think the only concern is... our law enforcement is expected to stop every plot. Every attack."

    Dear President Obama,

    No, we're NOT expecting our law enforcement to stop "every plot - every attack."

    Just like we're not expecting them to stop domestic abuse by planting cameras in every household in the country. And we're not expecting them to stop car crashes by taking driving licenses away from everybody.

    We live in a world of acceptable risks - as a risk-adverse world only exists in delusional fantasy.

    And, unpalatable as it may be to politicians seeking re-election and frightened of social media backlash or to military/security agencies seeking to justify their ever increasing budgets and endless wars, if there is the choice between some people having horrible things happen to them because of drug-deaing-terrorist-pedophiles and all of us having our privacy, digital security, and tech industry decimated by the very people that say they want to "protect" us...

    ...then we say, okay. We can live with some plots and attacks.

    The-powers-that-be need to find ways to catch criminals, pedophiles and terrorists that don't reduce our freedoms. Because our freedom is sacred. But if they miss some of the bad guys, sometimes, that's an acceptable risk.

    Just like we're prepared to take a risk crossing the road, catching an airplane, or eating donuts.

    Sincerely,

    America

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 11:43am

    I'm with TJ

    I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.

    Thomas Jefferson


    Frankly, the chances of any one person being killed or injured in a terrorist attack are quite small. The chances they will have their credit, identity or credit card compromised in a hacking attack are quite large. I would prefer to have strong encryption over the internet, through the companies network and right on into the database. Nothing should be stored in the clear anymore, not even something as lowly as a phone number.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 12:42pm

      Re: I'm with TJ

      conversely the chances of your liberties being boot heeled to dust are quite large by comparison.

      Just the mere accusation of being criminal can get you put away for months on end waiting for trial or release with all assets frozen, family financially fucked, and your job lost!

      The real terrorists are the boys in blue that don't give a fucking shit about you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 12:17pm

    "with almost complete certainty that there haven't been abuses on US soil."

    Uh huh....

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LOVEINT

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    justme, 17 Feb 2015 @ 12:24pm

    obama: The narrow question is going to be: if there is a proper request for -- this isn't bulk collection, this isn't fishing expeditions by government -- where there's a situation in which we're trying to get a specific case of a possible national security threat, is there a way of accessing it?

    The point he misses is that if it's targeted it is still easily done, by actively intercepting the targets communication! The encryption we are talking about doesn't prevent wiretapping and seeing everything in and out of a targets phone in real time . It only prevents the browsing(fishing) through things already stored on the phone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 12:37pm

    "Obama: Everybody should. And I'm a strong believer in strong encryption. Where the tension has come up, is historically what's happened is that... let's say you knew a particular person was involved in a terrorist plot, and the FBI is trying to figure out who else are they trying to communicate with to prevent the plot. Traditionally, what's been able to happen is they get a court order, the FBI goes to the company, they request those records, the same way they'd go get a court order to request a wiretap. The company technically can comply."

    What he should have followed up with is: "Now we just use National Security Letters that work as federal gag orders to request anything we want."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 1:45pm

    Obama != security!

    When Obama was Senator from Illinois, he was originally against FISA. When it came down to the final vote, he switched his position! Then he ran for President. My guess is that the NSA/CIA or whoever has some dirt on him, and the only way he could run for President was to accede to these buttheads... So, to keep himself "clean", he has to support these asses. Nothing else makes any sense at all to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Patrick, 17 Feb 2015 @ 1:50pm

    They can't stop terror plots now, unless it's one the FBI concocted. They are paralyzed by all that data they scoop up and being unable to accurately connect the dots.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 2:35pm

    Something not stated.

    There are a few things that are not stated or even mentioned in any form here.

    1. The internet needs a few fixes. one that would track most emails is that every server needs to place a tag on the email passing thru it.
    2. HARDWARE back doors. The CIA has been installing hardware backdoors in alot of devices for years. Also the Manufacturers have master resets incase you mess something up, it can be reconfigured.
    3. Monitoring the net, no matter how thorough,can not cover everything. There are to many ways to Hide what you are doing or what is being said. Unless you think WOW is copying everything said/typed...Or Mabinogi is doing the same...The odds of finding people doing bad things is not that easy. Other wise we would all be under Puritan laws, and every child molester would be arrested.

    For those that dont get it, the internet hasnt changed much, its only being covered up by LOTS of pretty interfaces. The old net is still there. BURIED..under a browser..and pretty colors..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 2:58pm

    I understand perfectly the risks and tradeoffs of government mandated backdoored encryption. It'll start with the USA demanding backdoors. Then it'll spread to China. Then Iran, Russia, the UK and finally every single country in the world. Until all inhabitants on planet Earth are living in a Orwellian, authoritarian and/or totalitarian society.

    Believe me, I fully understand the tradeoffs/risks of government mandated, backdoored encryption. Just say no to backdoors. It won't end well for humanity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 3:07pm

    Barack Obama is a puppet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    aerilus, 17 Feb 2015 @ 8:22pm

    Put a damn keylogger on their device if you suspect them of terrorism or do a man in the middle attack. Their doesnt need to be encryption back doors just competent law enforcement officers. If it gets to the point where you suspect one individual your toolbox is full only time you need a back door is when you want to scan everything and look for patterns.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Cloudbuster, 18 Feb 2015 @ 12:18pm

    How do you believe a serial liar

    The problem with evauluating any statement from Obama, whether sensible-seeming or not, is that he has flip-flopped positions, broken explicit campaign promises and outright lied with no apparent remorse so many times that any statement of his has no predictive value. You have no way of knowing whether it's a sincere, believable statement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 18 Feb 2015 @ 12:54pm

    A change of wording that might someday indicate progress...

    The actions and policies that were revealed by the Snowden disclosures were really harmful in terms of the trust between the government and many of these companies...

    Fix'd.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Walter Sobchak, 18 Feb 2015 @ 1:25pm

    I'm A Big Believer In Strong Encryption... But...

    "I support the left though I'm leaning, leaning to the right
    "I support the left though I'm leaning to the right
    "But I'm just not there when it's coming to a fight"

    Politician by Clapton, Baker, Bruce

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Red Black (profile), 18 Feb 2015 @ 1:48pm

    I Woudn't Trust the Government to start with the letter "G"

    People are showing they fear the government more than they fear terrorists. Obama ought to let sink in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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