FBI director Christopher Wray said earlier this week, “we’re not looking for a ‘back door'”. Unsure, he explained that he thinks a back door is a “secret, insecure means of access”. He says this isn’t what the government is looking for. They want to break encryption in a way that also keeps information secure. However, it may not be possible within that framework.
The FBI claims that unbreakable encryption is a public safety issue, if they are unable to access information that criminals and terrorists may be sending. But breaking into a system to find evidence against criminals, provides loopholes for hackers to access innocent citizen’s private data.
Is the FBI Invading Privacy?
The FBI wants access to devices that may contain evidence, after showing probably cause and getting a warrant. It doesn’t offer a solution to their demands, however claims that it is up to the “brightest minds doing and creating fantastic things.”
The FBI has openly criticized tech companies, like Google and Apple, since 2014 regarding information privacy. However, if the FBI can access user devices whenever they can claim probable cause, our privacy is at risk. The debate of privacy vs. security is nothing new, but this is another attempt by the FBI to rule in favor of security at the expense of privacy.
Tech Companies Stand with Their Users
While we often focus on situations when tech companies collect user data against their will, or without their best interests in mind, in this situation the companies are standing up to the government. Apple, for example, uses encryption that is seemingly uncrackable, even for the company itself. When Apple introduced its iOS 8 mobile operating system, it said it could no longer bypass personal passwords to access photos, messages, emails or other data stored on its devices.
Cybersecurity experts, privacy advocates and civil liberties organizations agree that iPhone encryption keeps the average consumer’s data safe from criminals and government surveillance, a net benefit for society.
One theme that seems to cover this issue is that the tech companies the FBI is criticizing have more capabilities and technical know-how than the FBI itself. This is just one example of the massive power that the companies storing your data have. Luckily for now, the companies aren’t bending to the FBI’s request and are advocating for user privacy.