Should the government have access to all data?

I was reading the “Why does the FBI need Apple to crack into the San Bernadino shooters’ phones?” thread in GQ and wanted to respond with what’s below, but then realized it should be a thread of its own and isn’t a question of fact, but a question of opinion.

The FBI wants Apple to help them decrypt the iPhone of a dead terrorist. That doesn’t seem so bad.

The problem is, that this would pretty much set the precedent that companies have to engineer their products such that the government always has a way in.

Is that what we want?

Should the government always have a way to read all your secrets?

If yes, then why all the other protections that limit the government’s reach so criminals get to stay out of jail?

Here’s the thread in Great Debates.

I don’t see why it would set such a precedent.

IIUC the FBI wants the Apple computer engineers to create an app that will allow the FBI to hack into the phone and reset the option that erases all data after 10 failed logins, so that it never erases the data no matter how many failed logins. Then the FBI will run every four character number from 0000 - 9999 to see if that is the password, and/or everything in the dictionary on the phone, or whatever. The FBI does have a court order.

I don’t think this means all companies have to issue products that allow the government to hack into them, with or without a court order. I think the worry is that there will be an app out there, in Apple’s or the FBI’s possession, that will allow the hacking of a phone so you can reset the security options. Then if the app gets leaked, anyone can hack into anyone else’s phone, etc.

It’s not like the government forcing safe-making companies to make safes so that one combination will open any safe. It’s more like asking the safe manufacturer to tell you how one particular safe is made so they can crack it.

It may or may not be a good idea - I can see both sides. But it is not the government trying to force anyone to make their products more accessible directly.


You’re right, they’re doing it indirectly.

“The Government” is ideal abstract notion that doesn’t exist in reality.

It’s made up of people. Some good, some bad, some incompetent. The latter two groups cause problems. They will deliberately or accidentally allow your data into someone else’s hands, etc.

In addition, the people who write the software to access the data are also human. Errors in particular will exist no matter how good and careful they are. These errors lead to holes that others can exploit. While various devices you own will also have errors, a central government system is one-stop shopping for the bad folk. You’re making it a lot easier.

The government having access to my data is just another way of saying I have no security at all.

That somehow we are less safe, etc. due to encryption is absurd. It makes us safer. It’s not used nearly enough.

The main thing to be on the lookout for is scare tactics: Oh noes, the terrorists/pedophiles/etc. are getting away with awful things!!!

If your argument is based on scaring people, you don’t have an argument.

If you have no security at all, then surely you don’t bother with passcodes on your phone, right?

Also, if your argument is based on “the sky is falling” statements like “I have no security at all” if the government can look at one murder’s iPhone, I submit that there is no valid argument there.

I consider the latter two to be one group - bad people. I wonder why “good people” would concoct a scheme to gain unauthorized access to other people’s data?

The OP’s premise is logically impossible. I’d re-state in terms like “Should good people doing their jobs be given access to necessary data by legally defined means?”

In that case then, of course - by all means!

Which premise?

And what is that supposed to translate to in practice?

Governments don’t access data - people do.

ALL DATA? What Data? All your data? Whose data? Really disingenuous question formulation.

We’re trying to delineate that on a case-by-case basis, but special interest groups consisting of mostly uninformed alarmists keep getting in the way.

People don’t access data, individual cells do.

Or is it individual molecules? Atoms? Sub-atomic particles? Quarks?

If this is really just about this one case this one time, I don’t care too much. Apple has done similar stuff in the past. But if the FBI wants a precedent on the books that will then require Apple to build in the ability to do the same thing in the future, that would worry me greatly.

Seeing as how you went from one extreme to the other in your specificity, actually it’s groups of cells in the fingertips, eyes and brain.

They are just trying to make sure it’s legal this time, since alot of people are going to get insight into this high-visibility case sooner or later.

But don’t worry - what you don’t know won’t hurt you. :smack:

Here’s the problem as I see it.

My mother has a saying, “If you have a secret, don’t tell another soul, cause once another person knows, it’s no longer a secret.”

If the government has access to your data, you may think it’s OK, because they are the “good guys.” And probably most of them are, but there are always bad people with good guys. And if one of these guys gets mad, he’s gonna sell or give this information to bad people. Or you have a “good guy” turn into a “bad guy,” then you are in a mess.

That is my issue with it. I don’t trust the “good guys” to be able to keep the “bad guys” out of my data, thus I need to keep everyone out of it.

Assuming you are not the target of international espionage, high-profile criminal or other nefarious occupational hazard, and it doesn’t get confiscated off your dead body or otherwise falls into the hands of your adversaries, you should be good to go! :rolleyes:

I read and re-read Ravenman’s response to my post.

I have no idea what point is being made. None at all.

So I can’t really respond to it.

If I were Apple, I think I would be tempted to say, “Sure, we’ll fix it! Just load this software on the phone and, huh, that didn’t do what it’s supposed to. Let’s try this. Well, that didn’t work either. Oh well, the phone is now a brick. The only way you’ll crack that phone is with a hammer.”

Good thing I’m not Apple.

IIRC, Phil Zimmerman was harassed by the government, which wanted a backdoor to access items encrypted with PGP. They didn’t cave.

I’m saying your post was hyperbole and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

“They” didn’t cave? Who didn’t cave?

IIRC, it was Zimmerman who didn’t cave. The issue became very moot very quickly, as PGP was just a software algorithm, not a piece of hardware, and became internationally published and known very quickly. That was inevitable. The gov’t called that “exporting munitions” and tried for years to nail Zimmerman on that. There was utterly nothing good to be accomplished by that; once the secret was out, it was irreversibly out. The gov’t just wanted to crucify him on a cross of plain text just to make an example of him, and just out of pure malicious vindictiveness. IIRC, they eventually gave up on that. (I don’t recall if Zimmerman actually ever got convicted of anything, but I don’t think he spent the next 50 lifetimes in jail.)