There are times that I wonder if former NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker is just trolling
with his various comments, because they're so frequently out of touch with reality, even though he's clearly an intelligent guy. His latest is to join in with the misguided attacks on Apple and Google making mobile encryption the default
on iOS and Android devices, with an especially bizarre argument: protecting the privacy of your users is bad for business
. Oh really? Specifically, Baker engages in some hysterically wrong historical revisionism concerning the rise and fall of RIM/Blackberry:
Baker said encrypting user data had been a bad business model for Blackberry, which has had to dramatically downsize its business and refocus on business customers. “Blackberry pioneered the same business model that Google and Apple are doing now - that has not ended well for Blackberry,” said Baker.
He claimed that by encrypting user data Blackberry had limited its business in countries that demand oversight of communication data, such as India and the UAE and got a bad reception in China and Russia. “They restricted their own ability to sell. We have a tendency to think that once the cyberwar is won in the US that that is the end of it - but that is the easiest war to swim.”
While it's true
that some countries, like India, demanded the right to spy on Blackberry devices, the idea that this was the reason for the company's downfall is ludicrous. First of all, RIM gave in
to some of those demands anyway. But, more importantly, the reason that Blackberry failed was because the company just couldn't keep up from an innovation standpoint -- and that's because early on it made the decision to focus onenforcing patents
, rather than truly innovating. RIM got fat and lazy by getting an early lead and then focusing on protecting it
, rather than keeping up with the market. And... one of the reasons
it got that early lead was because companies were willing to buy into the Blackberry in part because
of its strong encryption.
The idea that encryption was bad for business because China and Russia couldn't spy on people is not only ridiculous and silly, but it appears to be Baker supporting
authoritarian states spying on its citizenry. What the hell, Stewart?
Beyond that, Baker insists that, really, the public doesn't want encryption anyway, and if people only knew what was really going on with the "bad guys," we'd all be willing to give up our privacy:
Baker said the market for absolute encryption was very small, and that few companies wanted all their employees’ data to be completely protected. “There’s a very comfortable techno-libertarian culture where you think you’re doing the right thing,” said Baker.
“But I’ve worked with these companies and as soon as they get a law enforcement request no matter how liberal or enlightened they think they are, sooner to later they find some crime that is so loathsome they will do anything to find that person and identify them so they can be punished.
Right. And that's what basic police and detective work is for. It doesn't mean that you need to weaken the security and privacy of everyone else
. Anyway, let's see if Baker goes out and shorts Apple and Google's stock now that he believes encryption and protecting the privacy of their users is really so bad for business.