Thursday, February 18, 2016

We're (almost) all libertarians now

Okay, a little wishful thinking on the title. But I can’t help but think that most conservatives can’t see the (privacy) forest for the (terrorist) trees.

Politics surely makes for some strange bedfellows, and some of the strangest mingling of limbs has come about in the wake of the FBI’s demand that Apple create a method to unlock the iPhone one of the San Bernardino terrorists used. Apple is thus far resisting the demand (and a magistrate’s order), citing concerns about data privacy and deterring hackers, while politicians as disparate as Senators Tom Coburn and Diane Feinstein support the FBI’s demand as a necessary tool to combat terrorism. And I hope Sen. Feinstein doesn’t notice that conservative gadfly Ann Coulter agrees with her – or, worse, agrees with Donald Trump. Who could possibly be against terrorism?

Well, a lot of people see things Tim Cook’s way, including the Macalope and the Macalope’s colleague, Rich Mogull; tech writers, such as John Gruber; 1Password developer Agile Bits; and some guy named Edward Snowden.

In this case, it seems pretty clear that the owner of the phone was a terrorist who committed an awful crime on U.S. soil. So sure, in a vacuum, I’m all for finding out what’s on that phone. On the other hand, no case exists in a vacuum. If the FBI thinks you said something unkind toward President Trump, should they be able to force Apple to unlock your phone? Worse, though, is that a back door into the phone, once in the wild, will not be limited to law enforcement. I might be willing to live in a world where anyone with a badge has access to the contents of my phone, but do I need to live in a world where any hacker can do the same? No, thanks.

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