DoJ vs. Apple iPhone: Now Obama weighs in with math denial

In Apple iPhone vs. Justice Dept’s anti-math position, Obama’s SXSW comments don't sit well with many

After Apple, the Justice Dept. will fight other companies over encryption, say deep-throated sources. As Barack Obama ramps up the rhetorical fight at Austin's South-by, whispered words to Useful Idiots are readying the next battle of the Government vs. Math war.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers won't please think of the children. Not to mention: Happy π Day

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. [Developing story: Updated 9:09 am PT with more comment]

WhatsCraic? Matt Apuzzo speaks to secret sources—WhatsApp Encryption Said to Stymie Wiretap Order:

While the Justice Department wages a public fight with Apple...officials are privately debating how to resolve a prolonged standoff with...WhatsApp, the world’s largest mobile messaging service...which is owned by Facebook. ... As recently as this past week, [DoJ] was discussing how to proceed in an...investigation in which a federal judge had approved a wiretap, but investigators were stymied by WhatsApp’s encryption.

The government officials and others who discussed the dispute did so on condition of anonymity. ... Officials said it was not a terrorism investigation. ... “WhatsApp cannot provide information we do not have,” the company said...when Brazilian police arrested a Facebook executive after [WhatsApp] failed to turn over information [in] a drug trafficking investigation.

Joseph DeMarco, a former federal prosecutor [said] “Criminals think that advanced encryption is great.” [But] in 2013, a White House report said the government should “not in any way...weaken, or make vulnerable generally available commercial encryption.” [And] the government helped develop the technology behind WhatsApp’s encryption...Open Whisper Systems. [However] President Obama...on Friday, [said] technology executives who were “absolutist” on the issue were wrong..

Yikes, here we go again. Cyrus Farivar rounds out the story—Encrypted WhatsApp messages frustrate new court-ordered wiretap :

The US Department of Justice has opened another legal front. ... The case...remains under seal.

Since late 2014, all WhatsApp messages sent between Android devices are end-to-end encrypted, [so] not even...Facebook can access their plaintext contents. ... WhatsApp upgraded its security after partnering with Open Whisper Systems...founded by well-known security researcher Moxie Marlinspike [which] received $900,000 from the Open Technology Fund [via] the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the Department of State.

Matt Steinfeld, a Facebook spokesman, [said] "We’re declining comment." ... Emily Pierce, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, [said] "We are not commenting."

But Obama still knows that crypto backdoors are a bad idea, right? Justin Sink makes our hearts sink—Government Can't Let Smartphones Be ‘Black Boxes,’ Obama Says:

President Barack Obama said Friday that smartphones...can’t be allowed to be...inaccessible to the government. ... "You cannot take an absolutist view on this," Obama said at [SXSW] in Austin. "[It] does not strike the kind of balance we have lived with for 200, 300 years."

[He said] that for centuries law enforcement agencies have been able to search private property for evidence of crimes. "[If] there’s no door at all, then how do we apprehend the child pornographer?" ... Compromise is possible, he said.

That'll put the cat among the pigeons. Mike Masnick feeds the birds—President Obama Is Wrong:

Obama, during his SXSW keynote interview, [has] joined the crew of politicians making misleading statements. [He] is basically doing the same thing as all the Presidential candidates, stating...that we need to find some sort of "balanced" solution short of strong encryption.

There has always been information that was inaccessible. ... In law enforcement has much more recorded evidence that it can obtain. ... So it's hellishly misleading to pretend...we've entered some new world of darkness.

In a time before smartphones, detectives were still able to catch child pornographers. ... We shouldn't undermine our entire security...because there are some bad people. ... That makes us less safe.

[It's] maddening. ... He almost understands. ... To brush aside the realities of...math is just crazy. ... It is not an absolutist view to say that...anything that weakens the security puts people in harm's way.

The President is discussing this like it's a political issue rather than a technological/math issue. [He's] not being a "realist." He's being the opposite. ...The "compromise" solution [is] ethically horrific.

I have a lot of trouble with the President [suggesting] the tech industry doesn't care about stopping terrorism or child pornographers. ... Enough of this bogus "strong encryption is important, but... the children" ****.

But not everyone takes that view. For example, pdixon1986 says it's a "no brainer":

There are very few people who want access to your phone. 99.9% dont care. ... The only people who will be interested in your content are the police, FBI etc.

I understand why people want this 100% protection. [But it] doesn't protect your security or the nation's.

If Apple win...I'm almost certain there will be a huge terrorist attack...and it will be done using iPhones.

I wonder if that's what it will take. ... Privacy comes at a huge cost to national security.

To whom should we give the last word? How about Cory Doctorow—Obama: cryptographers who don't believe in magic ponies are "fetishists":

Obama's SXSW appearance included the president's stupidest-ever remarks on cryptography. ... In a rhetorical move that he would have flunked students for, Obama described a landscape with two edges.

This [is] math denialism, the alternative medicine of information security. ... Wanting it badly isn't enough.

Update: Leave it to the Brits to speak snark and cut to the chase. Yoni Heisler is in awe-John Oliver hilariously tackles Apple's legal battle with the FBI:

As it stands now, the FBi wants Apple to basically create a new version of iOS. ... The DOJ filed a motion last week where it hinted that it might even...compel Apple to hand over its iOS source code.

HBO's John Oliver yesterday covered the topic in a humorous and informative way. ... The entire video is well worth watching.

Similarly, Sarene Leeds speaks easy-John Oliver’s New ‘Honest’ Apple Commercial:

As always, he broke down the argument in terms we can all understand. [He] likened the FBI to a technically challenged parent.

However, Oliver...admitted that “there is no easy side to be on in this debate.” ... Last Week Tonight then aired yet another one of their “honest” commercials.

The voice-over...implores customers to “keep enjoying our products. ... Just know that this shaky edifice could crumble at any moment.”

And Finally…

Speaking of math denialism, This Pi Day is much better than last year’s

You have been reading IT Blogwatch by Richi Jennings, who curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don’t have to. Catch the key commentary from around the Web every morning. Hatemail may be directed to @RiCHi or
Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon