back to article White House flushes away court-ordered decryption like it was a stinky dead goldfish

Multiple sources have reported that the White House isn't keen on forthcoming legislation that would force companies to decrypt their products if a court orders it. For the last couple of weeks, US Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have been sounding out members of Congress over their bill to give courts …

  1. Ropewash
    WTF?

    How far ?

    As in... How far underground do these clowns want to push their own people's communications?

    Their spying is what caused this upswing in security in the first place and now they seem very eager to drive new innovations in the encryption field just so the citizens can keep their data safe from the government.

    At this rate there won't be much clearnet activity left.

    If they'd just kept out of the mass data collection fad then I'll wager no-one would even care and if they needed to spy on someone specific they'd have victi.. targets... who hadn't bothered to encrypt either drives or comms.

    Hopefully the next encryption methods are from some country that loves laughing at the USA and everyone installs them by default.

    Sent over clearnet from an un-encrypted computer not in the USA. If they want my crap data they're welcome to it, may it clog their bandwidth with useless sewage.

    1. Def Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: How far ?

      The more cynical reader might suggest the following edit:

      "If they'd just kept their mass data collection out of the media, then I'll wager no-one would even care..." ;)

    2. Velv
      Holmes

      Re: How far ?

      I'm in no way suggesting this is anywhere near a reasonable justification for such legislation, but you've got to remember that most criminals are a bit thick, they'll use the standard features on their device, and law enforcement gaining access to the information will secure more convictions. I can therefore understand why some people think it's justified, however like you, I'd suggest any such legislation will just push the really dangerous criminals further underground.

  2. Mephistro
    Devil

    Feinstein and Burr, ...

    ...so far away, but at the same time so close...

    I wonder what kind of shit the TLAs have on those two.

    1. Alistair

      Re: Feinstein and Burr, ...

      I'm not sure, but it *has* to be very deep and very long, and exceptionally ugly. They've both made it clear that the NSA owns them till their last breath.

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Feinstein and Burr, ...

      The TLAs probably have enough to destroy either one with one well placed and timed leak. Also, the fact they are both trying to protect their beloved Stasi from a well deserved prosecution should say what they really are - traitors.

    3. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: Feinstein and Burr, ...

      Those two working together is the poster child for a 2 dimensional political graph, using the x-axis for "Conservative" and "Liberal" and the y-axis for authoritarian/libertarian. these two are as far apart as possible in US politics on the x-axis, but they are on the same level regarding authoritarian policies (right at the top).

      Since the US is big on putting content labels on things (foods, broadband contracts) maybe we could put them on politicians.

      Bonus points: Include the list of ownersPolitical Donors where the Nutrition Labels have the vitamins and minerals listed.

      ========================================================

      IQ: Negligable

      Left/Right: Right (50%)

      Authoritarian (100%)

      (Warning: Contains Nuts)

  3. cd

    From the SF Chron...http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Mayor-gets-pulled-over-while-trying-to-get-a-look-7230408.php

    Falvey said the mayor plans to allocate more funding to the Police Department to address property crimes. That includes potentially more money for equipment with “encrypted channels” that could avoid detection, as well new undercover cars that are less recognizable to criminals.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whose court?

    In her head, she probably thinks only US Courts (and fake courts like FISA) will be the ones serving up the warrants on companies with US bases to grab data worldwide.

    In reality it will be every country serving warrants on US companies that have bases abroad. That data will include US data.

    We need to move to full scale encryption at this point. Lots of US companies operate in China and Russia, those countries are increasingly getting grabby. So of course they'll get more grabby towards foreign data. She's providing legal cover for this grab, even if they don't pass these laws (this one and Snoopers Charter in the UK), foreign countries can point to the attempts to pass them as justification.

    Do you want to turn on your iPhone knowing that it might be listening to you on a Chinese warrant served on Apple China? Or that Google might hand over your searches not on NSA-PRISM, but via its KGB-PRISM interface?

    Do the 180, flip to pro-privacy, do it now, before you do more damage.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whose court?

      Doesn't matter. Apple has already decided the way forward is to make it so EVERYTHING is encrypted and they have no possible way in even if they wanted in. They're closing up the ability to install software in DFU mode, and recent statements make it sound like they are finally going to do what I've been wanting for a long time - full encryption of all iCloud with data with a key Apple doesn't possess (currently that's only true for certain more sensitive data in your iPhone backup like passwords and Wifi keys, but not for stuff like iMessages) I'm sure they are looking at everything trying to find and fix any weak points where Apple itself could get in, now that they know being forced to hack their own products is a potential concern.

      Passing a law that says "companies must help the government recover data from phones upon lawful demand" is going to be a lot easier for politicians than passing a law that says "companies must design their products so they possess the technical means to recover data upon lawful government demand". Such a law would be without precedent, and would have a chilling effect on companies choosing to domicile in the US, causing irreparable damage to future high tech R&D in this country.

      Sure, maybe some other country passes such a draconian law (France looks far more likely to do so than the US) but the only card they hold is to ban sales of iPhones in France. That would make for an interesting test case of EU law, whether a country can ban sale of a product legal in the rest of the EU. Anyway, unless they criminalize possession of an iPhone, French citizens who want one could pick one up pretty easily next time they visit another EU country so I doubt Apple would lose all that many sales and would certainly be willing to stand up to them given that they stood up to the US government.

      As for China, Apple spends billions there with Foxconn, China can't afford to push them too hard lest Apple start talking to Foxconn (who remember are headquartered in Taiwan, not China!) about moving the whole operation to Brazil. They have already moved a small amount of production there, and Brazil's economy has become depressed due to the fall in oil prices, so there would be plenty of willing educated workers if Foxconn wanted to expand that operation. I can't see China pushing for access beyond what the US government has, but would likely insist on access on par with what the US has.

      1. DropBear
        Trollface

        Re: Whose court?

        "As for China, Apple spends billions there with Foxconn..."

        Nonono. Just millions. The rest is all Apple's markup.

      2. Down not across Silver badge

        Re: Whose court?

        Passing a law that says "companies must help the government recover data from phones upon lawful demand" is going to be a lot easier for politicians than passing a law that says "companies must design their products so they possess the technical means to recover data upon lawful government demand". Such a law would be without precedent, and would have a chilling effect on companies choosing to domicile in the US, causing irreparable damage to future high tech R&D in this country.

        I wouldn't be so sure. Not such a big jump from CALEA (especially if we're talking mobile phones) ..in the eyes of politicians drafting more daft laws.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Whose court?

          The difference is, with CALEA you have captive companies. The phone lines, towers, switches, etc. have to be located in the US because that's where the customers are, so it wouldn't do any good for AT&T to re-domicile in another country.

          Apple could (in theory, I don't think they would) re-domicile outside the US to avoid such a requirement, and the only thing the US could do is ban iPhones. All that would do is punt the problem, because if Apple is forced to log all iMessages via a CALEA style law, what about all the apps like WhatsApp that could similarly provide encrypted communication? Since they're owned by Facebook, the feds could go after them, but maybe they decide instead to sell WhatsApp to a firm that operates outside the US. Do the feds ban it? New apps come around all the time, are the feds going to play whack a mole with all of them?

          What about alternate app stores on Android, they might be able to force Apple and Google to keep "bad" apps that won't play ball out of their own app stores, but with Android (or a jailbroken iPhone) you can download from places that Apple and Google have no control over.

          The government will be forced to acknowledge this a problem they cannot control via laws or even back door pressure. The encryption genie is out of the bottle and can't be put back in. They will have to (gasp!) do actual work to track down terrorists, and not sit back on their fat asses and let computers tell them who to arrest because a Brit tweeted about "blowing up America" and "digging up Marilyn Monroe" and computers don't understand humor.

    2. hellwig

      Re: Whose court?

      Nice rhetoric, but the governments obviously don't care because they obviously don't consider themselves parts of their own countries, so obviously the government's data won't be subject to these laws. It's not like one sovereign nation would ever actively spy on another? Thankfully we live in a world where Edward Snowden never existed, right?

      I think it's a sad state that we elect politicians and they are no longer "the people". Seems like there's a term for being ruled by people who consider themselves elite, better than the rest, ordained by a higher power? It's not Democracy...

  5. msknight

    "For the last couple of weeks, US Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have been sounding out members of Congress over their bill..."

    Would these be members of Congress that use bling iPhones and may or may not have something to hide? Sounded like a self defeating task before they ever even started it. And I wonder for how many of them, Panama might already have finished it, given the US's legendary reputation for mixing corporate money and politics...

    1. 404

      Congress has exempted themselves out of every other questionable legislation they've passed, what would be different here?

  6. robin maddison
    Thumb Up

    Double Bluff?

    Double bluff- They can decrypt everything, Just pretending they can't, job done :-)

    1. SolidSquid

      Re: Double Bluff?

      Triple bluff - They can't decrypt anything, they just seed false stories where they managed it and rely on people coming up with conspiracy theories based on these to give the impression of capabilities they don't have

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Burr and Feinstein are the senior ranking members on the Senate Intelligence Committee

    If they are the 'best' of that committee then I shudder to think of the IQ of the remainder.

    The one thing is that they do uphold the world view of good US senators - 'when they are bought they stay bought'.

    1. Eddy Ito

      Meh, that just means they've been around the longest and the most crufty. In Feinstein's case she's also the most senile eldest Senator.

  8. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    When will politicians learn that they can't stop something happening just by making it illegal?

  9. PNGuinn
    FAIL

    Prohibition

    That worked so well in the twenties, didn't it. Reduced organised crime no end. Funny that it was circumvented by something called a Speakeasy.

    Those who don't learn from their history ......

    1. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: Prohibition

      Actually, Prohibition may not have accomplished any of the stated goals, bit it did accomplish exactly what is was intended to do: it made some people a LOT of money. We've learned how to profit from deal with the knock on effect of organized crime in the intervening years.

  10. Someone_Somewhere

    Governments today are rank amateurs it seems

    If the Authorities present DNA 'evidence' to a jury, what jury won't convict on that basis alone?

    Very few, I'd wager. Very few jurors will sufficiently well informed to argue about the validity of the findings themselves or follow the Defence's technical rebuttal - "It was his/her DNA and we found it at the crime scene" is enough for most to convict and the rest of the evidence (and the case itself) is merely a tedious waste of their time from that point on.

    Yet most juries will understand more about DNA than they will about hashing, elliptical curves, salting, rainbow tables, assymetric functions and lots of other mindnumbing mathematical stuff that just makes their heads swim.

    So, if David Kelly commited suicide,

    by (oh, so characteristically) sticking a needle in his arm,

    in the middle of a field,

    miles from home,

    just after he was about to divulge important information,

    that might have spelled trouble for some high ups,

    and no-one says "Hang on a minute!"

    I'm sure TPTB can arrange to plant fake information on a fake device that is claimed to belong to someone.

    Or simply state that they got the information from such device but that said device was destroyed in the process.

    Or even just present the still encrypted device and say "Here. We got this off it, but we can't tell you how because 'National Security' - you'll just have to take our word for it."

    Why do they even bother trying to intercept people's communications?

    If you're TPTB and you don't like someone, just fit them up.

    Who's ever gonna be in a position to do more than write a 'conspiracy theory' and ask awkward questions that need never be answered anyway (because 'National Security')?

    Seriously, robber barons these days - Ghengis Kahn wouldn't recognise them!

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