Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Are law enforcement agencies tone deaf?

Over at the Washington Post, there's been a series of articles quoting various current and former law enforcement officials and politicians predicting doom, gloom, and madness if Apple and Google go through with their plans to include encryption into their next generation of operating systems. In the latest article, the outgoing US Attorney General essentially asks companies to do it for the children. "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said on Tuesday that new forms of encryption capable of locking law enforcement officials out of popular electronic devices imperil investigations of kidnappers and sexual predators, putting children at increased risk."

The do it for the children card has been so over-used that folks are tired of hearing of it. Here's why regular folks want encryption:

  • It has been documented that law enforcement agencies in the US have downloaded the contents of mobile phones or otherwise searched the phones during routine traffic stops. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
  • What is the retention policy of the data police acquire at a routine traffic stop? If you aren't charged with an offense, if no ticket is issued, what happens to the data? How long do they keep it? Do they merge the data into a massive government database? 1 2 3  Ask your local PD. Call a few times. See how different each response is.
  • How secure is your personal data once it's in the hands of law enforcement? 1 2 3
Again, ordinary folks are concerned about their privacy and the protection of their personal information. The fact that the DOJ and other agencies don't understand this, or don't care, further worries the average person. 

In the US, the person is sovereign and free. Our Constitution places limits on what our government can do to us. The people have the power and our Constitution binds the government, limiting it to only those authorized activities.We're innocent until proven guilty. Not providing your mobile phone to law enforcement during a routine traffic stop is not proof of guilt, or even cause of reasonable suspicion. When the agents of the government make big moves outside of their Constitutionally limited areas, folks are going to seek a way to protect themselves. It's simple, actually.

Before pulling the do it for the children card, LE agencies should have solid policies governing when/how data collection can take place, what's going to happen to the data, and how the data will be protected - as well as a way for a citizen to appeal to have their data removed from the system without expense. 

But right now, folks just aren't buying what the DOJ is selling. They will, however, be buying what Apple and Google is selling.

No comments: