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Former NSA general counsel Stewart Baker says that Apple and Google are barking up the wrong tree with encryption

These days, likening a tech company to Blackberry is perhaps one of the lowest blows that you could possibly deliver. Blackberry was once at the top of the smartphone game, but after a series of blunders and a failure to react to competition from Apple and Google, the Canadian company has been relegated to just 0.5 percent of the global smartphone market.
 
In what is perhaps the latest round in fear-mongering regarding Apple and Google’s recent decision to encrypt user data in iOS 8 and Lollipop respectively, former NSA general counsel Stewart Baker is bringing up a fresh Blackberry comparison.
 
Baker said that enabling broad encryption support, which Blackberry pioneered, is “the same business model that Google and Apple are doing now.” Baker went on to add, “That has not ended well for Blackberry.”

Former NSA general counsel Stewart Baker [Image Source: The Privacy Advisor] 

We’d take issue with the fact the data encryption was the primary reason for Blackberry’s downfall — it seems like not reacting quickly enough to the changing consumer smartphone market space following the introduction of the iPhone was the big factor. But Baker continued, adding that countries like India, China, UAE and Russia gave Blackberry the cold shoulder because the governments of those countries wanted oversight of all communications data traveling within their respective borders.
 
In the end, Baker says that Apple and Google are fighting a battle against the government that they won’t win. “Tech companies are picking a big public fight with the NSA because it looks good, as opposed to changing the ability of government to get data,” Baker added. “The crypto wars have about as much to do with the outcome of security as the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939 had to do with the outcome of WW2.”
 
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) director James Brien Comey has also championed this need for oversight. In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” last month, Comey blasted efforts by Apple and Google to encrypt user data:
 
The notion that we would market devices that would allow someone to place themselves beyond the law, troubles me a lot. As a country, I don't know why we would want to put people beyond the law.
 
The notion that people have devices, again, that with court orders, based on a showing of probable cause in a case involving kidnapping or child exploitation or terrorism, we could never open that phone? My sense is that we've gone too far when we've gone there.
 
Even outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has resorted to using fear and even a “save the children” angle to attack consumer-level data encryption. While giving a speech at a conference held by the Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online in late September, Holder remarked:
 
In some cases, perpetrators are using cloud storage to cheaply and easily store tens of thousands of images and videos outside of any home or business – and to access those files from anywhere in the world.  Many take advantage of encryption and anonymizing technology to conceal contraband materials and disguise their locations.  And through unceasing innovations in mobile technology, predators are continually finding more opportunities to entice trusting minors to share explicit images of themselves.
 
Regardless of how the government (or its former employees) feel about the recent tend towards encrypting user data, it appears that companies like Google and Apple have no intention of backing down.

Source: The Guardian





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