Reports indicate ISIS may have used encrypted services in order to plan their attacks in Paris and Beirut. This has led officials to use this tragedy as an opportunity to argue why companies should create backdoors into their programs for government use.
Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell said in an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation this weekend, “I think what we’re going to learn is that these guys are communicating via these encrypted apps, this commercial encryption, which is very difficult or nearly impossible for governments to break, and the producers of which don’t produce the keys necessary for law enforcement to read the encrypted messages.”
This has led some officials to demonize the actions of whistleblower Edward Snowden, claiming his revelations tipped off the terrorists causing them to go dark. But Glenn Greenwald says U.S. officials are going after more than just Snowden.
Greenwald writes in a recent article for The Intercept:
“They want to demonize encryption generally as well as any companies that offer it. Indeed, as these media accounts show, they’ve been trying for two decades to equate the use of encryption — anything that keeps them out of people’s private online communications — with aiding and abetting The Terrorists.”
Yes, Apple and Google, even Sony’s PlayStation 4, are being “depicted as Terrorist Lovers for enabling people to have privacy on the Internet through encryption products.”
Many prominent media outlets reported on a comment made by Belgium Deputy Prime Minister Jan Jambon.
“PlayStation 4 is even more difficult to keep track of than WhatsApp,” he said in an interview before the Paris and Beirut attacks. “It’s very, very difficult for our services — not only Belgian services, but international services — to decrypt the communication that is done via PlayStation 4.”
This statement, plus the presence of PS4s in raids on possible terrorist suspects, has led outlets to talk about the console as a plotting device. There’s no evidence that they did, but whether or not they used the PS4’s encrypted chat service shouldn’t be the topic of conversation at this hour.
All technology can serve as instruments of evil, even when it has been built with the best intentions. Wernher von Braun built rockets with the intention of having them travel through space, but instead his rockets were used to bomb London in World War II.
There are a lot of questions being asked about the Paris attacks and people want to know how something like this could happen. But pointing the finger at encryption technology — a technology that has helped activists, journalists, and everyday people protect themselves — isn’t how we feel safe.
All technology can serve as instruments of evil, even when it has been built with the best intentions. Wernher von Braun built rockets with the intention of having them travel through space, but instead his rockets were used to bomb London in World War II. When hearing his vessels had bombed London, he said that “the rocket worked perfectly, except for landing on the wrong planet.”
I can understand the desire to want to do something now. The world just witnessed two huge tragedies, but saying that compromising the privacy of users is the right course of action is a sacrifice we would deeply regret. Remember the Patriot Act?
Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker
Photo Credit: KARIM SAHIB / Stringer/ Getty