Not only is this battle refusing to die, but now it’s just been made much larger. It started between the FBI and Apple over one solitary iPhone, and now it’s progressed to the intelligence in several countries and is including several tech companies. The intelligence community, naming themselves “Five Eyes,” wants to forge an agreement that “privacy is not absolute.”
We hold a lot in our phones. They are often our main mode of communication. They hold the records of everyone we have had phone contact with, hold our voicemail messages, include records of all our text messages through various apps, hold all our emails, our social media accounts, photos of the important places we’ve been and the important people in our families, etc.
This makes them tools that the police or other investigators want to get their hands on. They could tell a lot in the case of a crime, such as if we were planning a massacre and if we were working with an organization or acting alone.
But tech companies feel an allegiance to us, their customers. They sold us on privacy and security. How can they go back on that? As soon as they do that, just one time of allowing the authorities to search our phones, the precedent has been set.
Additionally, many times it’s just not possible to provide that backdoor the authorities are searching for without significant changes to hardware and/or software.
But that doesn’t stop the authorities from wanting it.
Now this has grown from a fight within the U.S. to being more worldwide. The intelligence communities of the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand met in Australia recently to discuss cybersecurity, national security and digital terrorism. These intelligence communities that gathered together called themselves the “Five Eyes.”
Together they released joint statements, including the “Statement of Principles on Access to Evidence and Encryption.”
This iterated the message “privacy is not absolute.” It also stated that governments and tech companies have a “mutual responsibility to ensure there is access to “lawfully obtained data.”
“Providers of information and communications technology and services – carriers, device manufacturers, or over-the-top service providers – are subject to the law,” continued the statement, “which can include requirements to assist authorities to lawfully access data, including the content of communications.”
It’s apparent that the Five Eyes feel entitled to what they can glean from our phones when there is an investigation at play. And now they want tech companies to guarantee them access to phones if they request it. This isn’t going to sit well with people.
They do, at least, realize it’s not going to be a cakewalk for them to get this help. “Currently there are some challenges arising from the increasing use and sophistication of encryption technology in relation to which further assistance is needed.”
This is going to affect both hardware and software companies, and any that go against the rule stand to pay heavily, with the Five Eyes promising they “may pursue technological, enforcement, legislative, or other measures to achieve lawful access solutions.”
Losing Security to Protect Safety
All this leads to questions of what we’re sacrificing to have that safety. While they say this is “to aid the protection of the citizens of our countries,” it’s hurting them as well, as their data will now be stored on devices with backdoors that makes them just that much easier to hack into.
How do you feel about this? Do you think the Five Eyes are right in what they are insisting the tech world do to help them? Let us know how you feel about this in the comments section below.