I understand everyone believes there should be a balance between security and privacy. Seems sensible. Bill Gates came out today in favor of the FBI over Apple, but then he’s been making business decisions counter to consumer needs for decades. I myself am so impassionately middle of the road on most topics that I wonder sometimes if I’m not actually dead. It’s great when everyone can win a trophy but you cannot avoid the reality that there are winners and losers. I believe the current Apple/FBI debate is one of those binary scenarios. It’s as difficult for me as anyone else to plant my flag when I want both privacy and security. The following example though helps clarify my position.
The 4th Amendment provides both privacy protection, and presents the guidelines for the State to void those privacies given reasonable cause. Assuming proper due process, the State wins. This is a nice template for balance, but it doesn’t stop there. The 5th Amendment protects us from self incrimination. “I plead the 5th.” Taken together, people must allow the State entry into their home for a warranted and reasonable search of evidence of a crime. However, people are not obligated to point out where they hid the evidence. “Oh, it’s under the seat cushion.”
There are two centuries of legal precedent supporting these Amendments to where most of us are fairly knowledgeable of the rules, without being actual lawyers. Let me dumb this discussion down though even further. Let me use the term secrets instead of privacy. We all have secrets. Not just our banking PIN code but family history and deep, dark fantasies. I know that there are things I would never consider telling anyone, and I’m about as transparent as a person can possibly be. Have you read my prostate chronicles? I might be wavering a bit from the core Apple/FBI topic since not all secrets necessarily contain criminal content, but I believe the principle points remain intact. I’m allowed to have secrets.
I’m not even that strong of a privacy advocate. See above on my middle of the roadness. For example, I don’t consider privacy an inalienable right. We were born naked in a garden, so God wasn’t that big on personal privacy either. Clearly, there was very little personal privacy when we were living together as tribes in caves. But like anyone else in western civilization, I’ve grown accustomed to certain privileges and I do want privacy. Even if I didn’t, the information age ascribes so much value to data integrity that encryption is paramount to how our society and economy function. It’s not until I substitute the word privacy with the word secret that I begin to understand where I fall on this topic. The State can try to search but I can try to hide. Tell me I’m wrong on this.
Cryptography and cryptanalysis have been a cat and mouse game played throughout millennia. Technology plays the lead role. I understand that if the State can decrypt my communications, they already have legal justification to do so. My information is only as safe as my encryption is strong. But if they can’t decrypt my data, I don’t have to hand them the keys. That’s like showing them the evidence is hidden under the seat cushion. And they can’t outlaw encryption. That’s like saying I can’t have secrets. Who doesn’t have secrets?