Mark Skilton    Copyright 2019  ©

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Apple vs FBI and the worrying sound of silence


In the recent Apple and now Google and WhatsApp are joining the chorus of voices objecting to the US Government request for access to iPhone data of  San Bernardino killer Syed Faroo.


I agree with these principles outlined in Tim Cook's <a href="" target="_hplink">open letter </a> but I'm not hearing the voice about the other side on how to deal with strong encryption technology and citizen  and national defence which has some challenges.


It is clearly a wicked problem that needs some comparators that don't exist today. Wicked triangle in that we want to preserve our right to privacy while needing to bring to justice criminals while at the same time addressing fears of government surveillance.


I agree backdoor methods will be disastrous based on cyber hacker history that is filled with exploitation methods of computer code. But with stronger encryption its seems difficult to have it both ways and will only  drive more advanced location behavior and data  traffic surveillance monitoring.  This is clearly a digital disruption downside.


The California court using a law from the 18th says much about inadequacy of current legislation for the digtal economy, the Samuel Morse invention of the telegraph did not arrive until the 1830s and origins seem more for expediency not long after the American War of Independence of 1775 to 1783.    The 1789 All Writs Act ignores context and just forces compliance.


(a) The Supreme Court and all courts established by Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.

(b) An alternative writ or rule nisi may be issued by a justice or judge of a court which has jurisdiction.


Decree nisi seems to just be based on one condition of find a judge from somewhere to authorize access. Not a great piece of legislature.


If we are looking for some kind of precedent in similarity it is perhaps in the court of human rights and war crimes where such matters of protecting the anonymity of victims or voice of freedoms are considered while being able to expose perpetrators of acts against society or individuals. 

But the issue is surely different with the obfuscated identity caused by a new digital capability of encryption  that may inadvertently affect not just social or cultural silence but the complicity of silence.  In this respect I am much more worried about the sound of silence.  


While Apple is speaking up we must also be wary of all new technology advances that challenge our ability to be able to make our voices heard and discover truths.