You may have recently heard on the news about the conflict between the FBI and Apple. It’s one of those geek stories that leaks out into the mainstream media, which then completely drains the issues of all context and creates a simple, easy to tell, two-sided narrative.

Big brother demanding new spy tools vs. company trying to defend the privacy of it’s customers. Or noble law enforcement tracking down terrorists vs. evil company trying to defend their profits.

It ain’t that simple, as explained by a digital security expert in the Washington Post (ironically, about as mainstream media as you get).

What the FBI wants to do would make us less secure, even though it’s in the name of keeping us safe from harm. Powerful governments, democratic and totalitarian alike, want access to user data for both law enforcement and social control. We cannot build a backdoor that only works for a particular type of government, or only in the presence of a particular court order.

Either everyone gets security or no one does. Either everyone gets access or no one does.

There is much more to this story beyond one particular phone, including mistakes made by investigators and lots of uninformed, headline-grabbing rhetoric from politicians and others who should know better. Start with the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s summary of the facts and the implications this controversy could have for everyone’s privacy.

Sadly I suspect the outcome will leave everyone’s devices – and the personal information they contain – just a little more open to both the “bad” guys and the “good” guys.


Image: Sticker available from EFF Shop.