Presidential Candidates Stumble About in Apple Encryption Case
Although “Jeb!” has now reverted to “Jeb” as he withdraws from the presidential race, the narrowing field is still full of candidates who, even if they do have a somewhat decent grasp of the information when it comes to encryption, nevertheless try to straddle the fence instead of acknowledging the realities of the situation. During his campaign, the younger Bush brother proved himself to be just such an equivocator. At best, he seemed to acknowledge in one debate the risk of being too extreme with regards to bypassing encryption, while in another taking the opposite tack, saying, “If you create encryption, it makes it harder for the American government to do its job — while protecting civil liberties — to make sure that evildoers aren’t in our midst.”
Others have given similar non-answers throughout this whole circus, on both sides of the aisle. We all know what Trump thinks. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both, possibly for political purposes, tried to emphasize a theoretical “middle ground,” recognizing the risks of creating a backdoor in encryption, but also invoking the dangers that could warrant this sort of thing in certain cases. “As smart as we are,” says Hillary, “there’s got to be some way on a very specific basis we could try to help get information around crimes and terrorism.”
Among the other Republicans, much of the same evasiveness has been present in Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, with the former summing up this vacillating strategy succinctly: “I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can protect ourselves from terrorists and protect our civil rights.”
No, unfortunately, in this case we can’t. That’s not how the iPhone works. We aren’t talking about Apple having immediate, clear access to information, and whether they should turn it over. The issue—the first issue, anyway—is how Apple made the iPhone’s encryption functions an integral part of the device. The company cannot unilaterally dismantle or override this security.
More importantly, and even more relevant to this scenario, is the alternative solution that Apple is being ordered to perform. That is, creating a back door in the encryption for law enforcement to use. Only, as I’ve said before, there is no such thing as a back door that only the “good guys” can use, that also guarantees beyond a shadow of a doubt that malicious hackers won’t be smart enough to figure out a way to hijack it for their own purposes. All that is without even getting into the actual political arguments, the moral and legal questions surrounding this issue, of liberty, security, government authority, etc. This isn’t a political site, though, so I won’t dive into that bog.
All we can do is hope our future president has a better understanding of this simple reality than he or she lets on.