Governments have long used tragedy to advance their goals. That includes the recent crises mentioned by US President Barack Obama. According to the Japan Times, the president is using the examples of Paris and San Bernardino as a reason to make encryption not as secure. He said he wanted to “Strike the right balance” and wanted to make sure that encryption “did not allow for a dark space” for terrorists.
Since Edward Snowden went public with his information in 2013, privacy in the US has become a big topic of debate. Despite recent “warnings” from the administration and the CIA, citizens still value their privacy and wish to stay private. Whereas the data used to be analyzed on a more regular basis as recently as a year ago, Apple’s statement that they would not do that any longer, shook up the industy.
Over 100 investigations were stopped because the phones could not any longer be analyzed. Though the ones being targeted were not terrorists, they had committed other crimes. Tech companies like Apple do not wish to be seen as a tool for the US National Security Agency to use, so they have mostly stopped cooperating. Perhaps law enforcement will have to start performing time tested actions again.
It is unlikely that tech companies will become more friendly with the idea of providing a back door, so the only way that could change is through legislative action. Though the director of the US FBI stated they had “decided not to seek a legislative remedy at this time”, he warned repeatedly that they were losing the ability to track communications with the encryption methods of today. Whether or not they will seek one later remains to be seen.
The horrendous acts that took place in San Bernardino, CA and Paris were awful to see. However, to use these attacks as a reason the government needs to spy on it’s citizens does not sit very well. There is no guarantee that more surveillance would have prevented these attacks, or future attacks. In fact, the attackers in Paris were not using encryption, but regular SMS unencrypted texting messagess. Though the terrorists in California did use encryption, the question remains would they have been able to stop the attacks if it had not been?
No matter the claims of the president and other organizations, it is hard to say if the actions could have been stopped. The bottom line is, if people want to cause harm, they will find a way to do so. Using the tragedies as justification for more surveillance is shameful. Whatever the solution, the threat of terrorism should not be an excuse for inefficient police work.