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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  1. identicon
    Zonker, 26 Mar 2015 @ 1:47pm

    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)?

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