Saturday, February 27, 2016

This Time, A Vote For Apple

On Friday night's Real Time, Bill Maher realistically maintained that Donald Trump would defeat hillary Clinton if and only if, there is a major case of Islamic-inspired terrorism in the months preceeding the election.

Less realistic is Maher's confidence that Trump actually would be nominated, as well as his criticism of technology giant Apple Inc.  The company is challenging a court order in which, according to Politico, it is to "create and install special software onan iPhone found near the site of the December massacre in California that killed 14 people,so that federal  investigators can try to crack Apple’s security without risk of wiping the device’s contents."

In an interesting twist, Donald Trump had already tweeted his recommendation that Apple be boycotted. The tweet was posted on his iPhone, born and bred in the mainland China Trump so often complains about.  The less-hypocritical Maher Friday contended

Let’s talk about that big applause for Apple.  I think people in this country are spoiled, I think they’re uninformed, I don’t think they really know what the threats are out there. I think partly you’re a victim of your own success: 9/11 was pretty horrible, but compared to what happens in the rest of the world often, we’ve gotten away pretty easy. I don’t think people really think about the fact that there are a lot of people looking for nuclear weapons—that they would use them right here in this country—and that having your pictures safe wouldn’t really stack up to being killed by a nuclear event here in Los Angeles or any other major city.

In "a message to our customers," Apple CEO Tim Cook ten days earlier had written

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.

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.

Similarly, C.I.A. whistleblower John Kiriakou, who served 23 months in federal prison for being a whistleblower, explained to Salon's Andrew O'Hehir

People just don’t seem to understand that this case has very broad civil liberties connotations. This is not a fight between Apple and the FBI. If Apple allows the FBI in this one time, what’s gonna stop them from asking another time? Indeed, the FBI has now asked for access to nine different phones in nine different cases. All the other cases are drug cases. So that has started already. Then, if such a back door exists, repressive regimes are going to use it and hackers are going to use it and the next thing you know everybody’s got access to your phone. I mean, haven’t we given up enough of our civil liberties already? All these incremental losses of our civil liberties over the years, that people either don’t sense or don’t care about, are bad enough. Now we have to worry about the FBI going into our phones anytime they want.

But if Kiriakou is to be believed, it's not only the FBI. It's Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Xi Jinping. It's also Hamas, Boko Haram, and ISIL.

And it's also, in a manner, Barack Obama. O'Hehir recognizes "Although the president has taken no visible role in the iPhone struggle, it exemplifies what you might call the Obama line: "I’m a reasonable guy and this is a special case. Don’t you trust me with your secrets?" Despite his lousy record on balancing civil liberties and national security, we probably should trust him. As for trusting the rest of the world, not a chance.

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