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opinion 79 Shares 37 comments

Here's why phone encryption is a bad thing

Encryption against law enforcement is a bad thing. It's all fine and dandy to encrypt your device against unauthorized use. But if the government gets a warrant the manufacturer and/or owner should be required to give them access to the smartphone and all of the information on it. This is essential to our safety.

AndroidPIT thinking of getting iphone 3363
The FBI should get access to your smartphone if they have a warrant. / © ANDROIDPIT

What is encryption and how did it suddenly become so important?

Encryption keeps your information hidden in a scrambled format so unauthorized users are not allowed access to it. If you don't have a key, such as a PIN or fingerprint, you are not allowed access to the information. This can get quite a bit more technical, as is the case with Apple and the FBI.

Apple devices automatically erase the data on a smartphone if more than ten incorrect attempts happen on one of its devices. This public encryption debate started when the FBI wanted to get into the San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook's iPhone and needed to bypass the code. They couldn't do it because Apple won't let them get around the phone's encryption. Now the courts are ordering Apple to start assisting the FBI in unlocking devices. 

Apple decided to resist the governments attempts to force them to unlock devices. But this is ridiculous, we can't take the stance that the FBI can't look at a known terrorist's (or criminal's) contacts. They already have access to their homes, cars, everything they they own. But not their smartphones. Is the phone some imaginary line that cannot be crossed?

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Is the government unlocking a phone such a terrible thing? / © ANDROIDPIT

Less privacy means more security

Since 9/11, we've waved goodbye to much of the privacy we had before. This is a perfectly natural reaction to the worst terrorist attack on US soil. Since then, no major terrorist attack happened on the scale of 9/11 and that could be attributed, partially, to the government having more control of our information.

We've seen some creative ways the FBI has used modern technology to stop would-be terrorists. Though controversial at first, they are now commonplace. The FBI infiltrated message boards to dupe radicalized terrorists into planting fake bombs. Imagine if they had instead planted real bombs.

This debate is no different. Sure the government having access to your phone's data is controversial now but it's necessary for the security of everyone. We'll get over the intrusiveness but we won't get over a terrorist attack. This may go to the Supreme Court but it's ultimately up to us as voters. Do we really care about encryption enough to risk more attacks?

shutterstock androidpit supreme court
This debate could ultimately be decided in the Supreme Court but it's really up to the voter. / © ANDROIDPIT, Shutterstock

Do we actually care about privacy?

One pressing question is whether or not we actually care about our privacy as a nation. Much of our communication is public. We toss our thoughts on Twitter and publish tons of our photos publicly on Facebook. Much of our digital lives are lived in public, which would nullify most of the arguments for encryption against law enforcement access.

So think, right now, is there anything on your phone you care about being public? For most of us, it wouldn't be the end of the world if this data was in the public. Well, why not make it accessible to law enforcement if they get a warrant. I'm not saying make all of your information public to anyone but keeping your phone locked when the FBI has a warrant is like slamming your front door in their face.

Would you give the information on your phone to the FBI? Let us know in the comments.

Readers' favorite comments

  • Bas Wip 6 months ago

    You should really read up on encryption and the reason WHY Apple and the entire tech industry refused access in the Bernadino case.

    It has nothing to do with them not agreeing with you that, if a legal warrent is issued, it shouldn't be complied with. All agree that if they could, they would.

    It has everything to do with the fact that you CANNOT create a system that is BOTH secure AND allows the FBI access when required. So you have to weigh those two things against each other, which is the real issue that you haven't addressed at all. The possible downsides to weakening encryption are way more dangerous.

    Therefore your statement that 'Less privacy means more security' is a just not true.

    Don't forget that the FBI already has access to all information to and from the devices and that that data and all the meta data that goes with it.

    An other thing that you didn't touch on at all is that encryption is readily available for criminals and terrorists. Even IF Apple and all other manufacturers provided access, how would you possibly stop people from using open source alternatives, or even bi-lateral encoding systems?

    What you end up with is a situation where we have ALL the downsides of a weakened encryption and NONE of the benefits. Given that choice I don't see how you couldn't agree that strong encryption for everyone is preferable. It's the lesser of two evils. In an ideal world everyone would agree with you, but it just cannot be done. It's not a matter of not wanting to because of principles but a matter of science and math.

    Off course you are entitled to your opinion, but you should have read up on the real issue instead of over simplifying it and have addressed how you envision the downsides are to be addressed.

  • John Riley 6 months ago

    Your rights are very easy to give up. Try getting them back.

  • Jamez Avila 6 months ago

    I know it's a bit late but this editor really must be joking!!?? Someone at AP should really question whether this guy should even have a job considering his lack of understanding on the issue. It's really a detriment to Android and its user base to allow someone with a platform to spread their ignorance as it only confuses the sheeple even more.

  • Martin Guay 6 months ago

    I don't believe any level of law enforcement should have access to the data from anyone, unless specifically relevant to the case at hand and even then, it would be up to them to figure out on how-to extract the data they're actively looking for. Also in the process they should be required to provide the "person/group" proper notification and be done with lawyer present at all time.

    Law enforcement should operate on the basis of less access as much as possible and be required to submit request for more data access to whatever investigation they're actively working on. They already abuse the power provided to them at every level of goverment whether local, municipal, provincial (state) or federal.


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  • Carl 6 months ago Link to comment

    What about other governments? Apple ... Hmmm. If the North Korean government asks Apple to unlock a phone, should Apple comply. What if the North Korean governments says Apple cannot sell iPhones in Korea unless they give them the keys? If it's possible for Apple to build a back-door for US law enforcement, it can be exploited by hackers from other governments. If there is no back-door, it cannot be exploited.

    Today, the US may have the best smarts for some encryption mechanisms, but they are only as safe as the keys and encryption/decryption methods. It's been an arms race in cryptology, and there just happen to be more people trying to break codes than there are people making codes more secure. Eventually, codes will be broken no matter how secure. It's just a question of time vs. security.

    The only secure computer is a clay tablet locked in a lead vault with no power or electrical fields nearby. It isn't very useful. If it's useful, it is inherently insecure.

  • Carl 6 months ago Link to comment

    I said a lot more but this site keeps telling me I have entered unapproved content. Go figure.

  • Carl 6 months ago Link to comment

    Um, I have to agree that this author should get a clue about privacy and security. While it is true that we Americans lost many rights. That was due to a knee-jerk reaction by congress which should NEVER have been allowed to pass as law. Yeah, try getting all of those rights back. Congress has been in a dead-lock stand-still for years as far as getting work done.

  • Those that are willing to sacrifice privacy in the name of security deserve neither. The author of this article clearly has no real understanding of how encryption works or what the implications of giving access/backdoors to the govt would be. Encryption doesn't just secure smart phones it also secures every single corporate network in the world including banks, so if you introduce backdoors to encryption you are basically giving whoever has that backdoor licence to hack into company VPNs, and online banks, and if that backdoor gets out into the wild which it inevitably will do (cyber criminals on average 'earn' more than the average govt bureaucrat so there is incentive to leak) then none of our online activity is safe from anyone. Put it this way would you be willing to give the govt access in the name of preventing the very rare acts of terrorism that occur in exchange for a cyber criminal stealing your salary direct from your bank account? Because that is ultimately the exchange you are likely opening yourself up to if you give govts backdoors. Terrorism is a straw man argument for giving open access to our data, more people die every year from bee stings than from terrorism, we don't see the govt starting a war on bees. Think logically people not hysterically (which is what the govt wants you to do).

  • All you privacy rights hypocrite need to throw away your smartphone. Because there is no such thing as real privacy when you are using any device that links to the net.

  • I think this is absolute baloney, for starters if it were a threat to national security or a mass murderer fair enough but the police are miss using their access and tapping into anyones and everyones phones, breaching their privacy and they are able in doing so to also alter messages, contact lists and basically anything they want, its a disgrace the way the police and law system are abusing the privelege and their positions of power all over this country and it is an absolute disgrace that national security has come up as a all time second to the war waged on meth users, a vast majority of which are unable to access services that would help them kick the habit, there is very little money allowed by the govt. for the resources these people need desperatley, all they get is a jail sentence and destroyed life, they are basically at the mercy of the wild wild west, corrupt law enforcement = the biggest threat to national security we will ever face. Stop giving them more power and start screening them before giving them opportunity to dirty it all up. Who's supposedly out there protecting and serving the citizens if all the cops are busy using their power for personal gain and vendettas??? Watch out Australia we've lost control and the silent attacker is in our own backyard. Take back your rights.

  • Well i hope all these people that don't agree that security service's be aloud to gain access to your phone if they suspect your a terrorist,aren't blown up by a terrorists using his or her phone to detonate a bomb?

  • Bojan M. 6 months ago Link to comment

    Look dude, unless you meant this article as a click-bait, which is totally disrespectful and insulting to your reader's intelligence, then you're an idiot (to say the least), which is also disrespectful and insulting to the intelligence of the readers of this website.

  • BruinGuy 6 months ago Link to comment

    Good work on creating click bait.

  • "If you think privacy is unimportant for you because you have nothing to hide, you might as well say free speech is unimportant for you because you have nothing useful to say." - Edward Snowden.

    • nice quote.. . just about perfect.

    • Quoting Snowden shows that you are a buffoon. Anyone who turns to Putin for protection is a hypocrite. Do you think Putin gives a shit about privacy rights of an average citizen?

      • Of course not. Politicians in general do not give a damn about anything that doesn't serve their interests. And you forgot the fact that Snowden sought asylum in Russia to be safe from the American government. Because he stood up to the Government's filthy business. And Russia doesn't equate to Putin. Even a moderately foolish person would have realised that.
        And by the way, whether you like it or not, bad guys will still have crypto.

      • Vladamir Putin is the Russian government. He is basically the Tzar of Russia. Let see if Snowden has the balls to expose Putin's dark secret. The U.S. is the lesser of two evil. And the only reason Russia is protecting Snowden is to spite the Americans.

      • US is the lesser of the two evils? I'm sure most will disagree with that. Although you are quite right about the motive.

      • banning crypto is like banning guns, if you take it away, then the good people have nothing to protect themselves with, while the bad guys can still use crypto to plan their evil plans(you know, last I checked criminals didn't really care about the law)

  • Almost every assertion in what you wrote is wrong in its face but let me address your last paragraph. What the FBI was asking for was not the key to "my" phone. They were asking for a key to ALL phones to be used whenever they felt the need.

    Given the way our government has treated it citizen's privacy over the past few years........NSA info gathering, IRS targeting conservative groups and the fact that their systems are often built with poorly designed security and subsequently hacked.........YES, I would slam the door in the FBI's face and tell them to go *!%$ themselves.

  • ljhaye 6 months ago Link to comment

    This article is irresponsible and poorly researched. Apples stance is precisely why some people buy ONLY iPhones. A warrant is one thing but being compelled to do anything violates the first amendment and the FBI knew that. It's no surprise that they asked the court to drop the case against Apple.

    One more thing I'll choose my rights to privacy over security 100% of the time. Privacy is what defines freedom not security.

  • SteveMB 6 months ago Link to comment

    Riddle For Readers: Which of these two precisely equivalent statements came from the above article?

    Riddle for Cory Schmidt: Construct an argument that allows you to reject the latter while continuing to accept the former. (OK, no fair to give you a riddle with no answer....)

    "Much of our communication is public. We toss our thoughts on Twitter and publish tons of our photos publicly on Facebook. Much of our digital lives are lived in public, which would nullify most of the arguments for encryption against law enforcement access."

    "Much of that gal's body is public. She shows off her boobs almost to the nipple and her skirt barely covers her butt. Much of her sexuality is flaunted, which would nullify her protests if I decided to walk up to her, say "Hey, nice rack, wanna #@(*?" and pinch her on the butt."

  • I hope your views are not the same as those held by Androidpit. If they are, I will never come back to this site. You sir are what is wrong with this country.

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