six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

Linked by Dan Moren

Tim Cook: Government requirement for a backdoor is an “overreach”

Tim Cook takes a page from the Steve Jobs playbook, posting an open letter on Apple’s site about encryption:

In today’s digital world, the “key” to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it. Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.

The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

Apple has been, so far, steadfast in its fight against attempts by the government to mandate use of a backdoor, for all the reasons that Cook specifies here. It’s frankly surprising to me that other technology companies haven’t likewise come forward, though perhaps they simply aren’t in the crosshairs yet.

As Cook says, the simple truth is that weaker encryption puts all of us at risk, and in no way prevents bad actors from using other easily available and equally impenetrable encryption software. Building a backdoor just makes it easier for criminals to get at our data.1

  1. Looking for a good illustration of this fight in easy-to-digest fictional form? One of my favorite movies of all time, 1992’s Sneakers, deals with just what the fallout of such a backdoor might be. And that was almost 25 years ago.  ↩