FBI Director Ignores 4th Amendment in Call for Encryption 'Back Door'

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2014-10-16 Print this article Print
Encryption Back Door

"The kind of information that people keep in their smartphones is everything," Black told eWEEK. "These are the modern houses for everything."

Black also noted that even if we trusted the FBI not to exceed its authority when it searched through our digital homes, the fact is that such a back door would open up our records to everyone. "The FBI is not the only entity," Black said. "What about divorce lawyers, county sheriffs or anybody else?"

The fact is that the FBI has a long history of abuses when it comes to searches and seizures, but it's nothing when compared with the routine flouting of privacy protections by some local law enforcement entities or, for that matter, the National Security Agency, as evidenced by the massive document leaks of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Adding to that are the nonexisting limits on foreign governments and other foreign organizations, criminal or otherwise. How long do you suppose it might be before the Chinese government or the Russian cybercrime syndicates find a back door if one existed? How long before repressive governments in Iran or North Korea found a way in? The fact is that even if the FBI's record were pristine and its motives pure, it still wouldn't be enough.

And while it's clear that the FBI director sees his mission as fighting terrorism and crime, including child abuse, the fact is, the wholesale ability to prowl through honest citizens' private effects isn't the way to accomplish it. After all, don't you suppose that the terrorists and abusers already know about encryption software? Breaking into their iPhones would only lead to another layer of encryption, this time without a back door.

To make matters worse, the FBI and other law enforcement organizations already have the resources they need to track down and catch terrorists and other criminals. While it might make it easier to get evidence for trial, breaking into a cell phone isn't the only way to catch a crook.

Unfortunately, when it comes to snooping, the interests of law enforcement haven't changed much in 250 years. The king's agents, and now the FBI, don't want to put forth any more effort than necessary. The tendency has always been to make citizens acquiesce to their convenience.

But this is the reason the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution exists. It is designed specifically to make it hard for law enforcement to snoop. Mason and Adams specifically intended for this to be the case because of their experience with the Writs of Assistance. The advent of modern technology hasn't changed that, and despite the FBI director's desires, watering down the Constitution isn't the answer.



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