Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Apple Iphone Encryption Issue

I have been avoiding digging into his one for several reasons.

Truth be told I have to say up front that our over all social/economic organization, and what it does to virtually every other issue, tends to make it my highest priority. Then you have all of the many very bad choices our government makes, in large part because of the deficiencies  of the afore mentioned organizational framework, not only domestically, but internationally as well. Tensions are already mounting between too many nations as it is, and in no small measure precisely because they share many of the same deficiency aspects with their organizational frameworks. And if that weren't enough, the planet itself is beginning to reconsider just how successful the current animal experiment in sentience has been. Even when I was younger this would be a lot to keep up with.

Another, shameful, admission, however, is that I have never liked dealing with encryption, or network technicalities in the first place, much less the security of same for that matter, back in my coding days. The moment you started talking about packets, and routers, and firewalls etc, my attention would be wandering in direct proportion to my eyes glazing over. Shameful, as I said.

This particular issue is made even more difficult, even if you don't share any my reasons for wanting to avoid it, because it involves a very big corporation, never a big favorite of mine, government too zealously pursuing things for us to be afraid of, and the tension between reasonable public safety and the right of the citizenry to do right or wrong in privacy.

First off, of course, you have to appreciate the irony of a big company caught between the rock and a hard place of its own making. On the one hand they want the corporation to have the rights of a citizen, but on the other they'd like to avoid any of the downside aspects of what that right might ask of it in the context of responsibility. Are they protecting privacy here because they really believe in it? Who knows. And in point of fact the question is virtually irrelevant. The bottom line, whatever else might be in play, is that they will loose market share if people can't depend on their product being secure.

What is the government actually asking for? Is it simply something that only affects this one phone, and no other? If you look at the court order involved here that notion is questionable to say the least. True, the specific encryption key is not in play, but the ability to work around that encryption is. And by that I mean the means to brute force their way past the password by having the "too many tries," cutout be disabled; which is not only avoiding the "you have to wait to try again" road block, but any sort of the "everything gets erased after too many tries" eventuality as well. In other words, getting to the goodies will be slower, but it will still occur.

Then there is the aspect of this from the point of view of those who have suffered at the hands of those who wish to express their discontent in the most violent way possible. This is the truly heart breaking part. These people have a gut wrenching stake in making sure other don't suffer the pain that they have been made to suffer. Something I can identify with as I lost my younger brother to a killer; not a terrorist mind you, but from a very severe case of Cerebral Palsy, which he finally succumbed to when he was 6 years old (and not without a great deal of suffering in the interim).

This is where the age old conundrum of the state protecting a collective right comes grinding up against the rights of any one citizen. We all want freedom of this or that, but none of us wants to die, or be harmed for that matter, or any of same to happen to our loved ones. And in that friction do we have to contend with not only the limits of the state to do anything effectively, especially as we think we can get by with "pay and forget," but the inherent limits that must be dictated by material practicalities. This is why nations prioritize pressing problems in the first place; at the end of the day there is only so much people power, and physical resource to deploy. And if we also wish to keep social cohesion going, to keep whatever people power we do have, we have to accept a certain level of downside, individually, to allow those expected collective rights as much sway as possible.

One of the posts I did a while back was on an argument that sought toexplain the advisability of allowing folks to do at least some wrong, as opposed to an ever increasing police authority allowing less of same. The thrust of this was that a great deal of needed social change would not have taken place had people not been able to contemplate breaking what they thought was an unjust law. And I have to say that it was a persuasive argument. That's one example of balancing rights.

Onother posts I have wondered at our propensity to accept death in oneregard, say in auto accidents, or disease, for that matter, because we enjoy the freedom of virtually unfettered movement, or "fun" lifestyle choices. We have some laws in place addressing harmful choices here, but not really all that many.

I mention these now because there simply aren't any easy answers here. There are trade offs a plenty, but absolutely no simple nostrums to have anything of substance for change. All "simple" offers is, perhaps, momentary distraction from hard choices.

For my part, I loath what we have allowed the government to do in the name of anti terrorism. I refuse to fly commercially any more precisely because of what I see as a cowardly submission to fear. All of that invasive searching before boarding is an admission that they can influence how we will live our lives. And lets be clear; searching that has a quite checkered history of catching hostiles in the process of acting. It is also questionable how effective very invasive scrutiny of our private lives has been in catching hostiles in process. This is not to say that reasonable police vigilance shouldn't be practiced, only to say that there can be a thing called "too much."

We are all going to die. Somehow as a nation we need to come to better terms with this simple fact. Just as we need to come to terms with the idea that a well lived life is hardly ever "safe." And because we haven't come to very good terms with either of these facts we have left ourselves vulnerable to being manipulated by actors at home and abroad. Back before we lost touch with what "frontier" really meant we used to under stand death, and how relative "safe" was. We took great relish, and passion, then pushing up against every boundary we came up against, accepting the hardship as well as the gains.

Why Are Apple and the FBI Battling Over an iPhone?by MATTHEW DELUCA