Every once in a while, people in positions of power indadvertedly reveal not only that their view of reality is distorted, but also that they really have no idea what they are talking about.
Recently, in response to leaked revelations that the NSA and other law enforcement agencies had pretty much free access to all of your personal communications, Apple and Google both announced that they were turning encryption on by default on iOS and Android. This is significant because Apple and Google will not have access to the encryption keys, which means that they cannot turn over your data to the government, even if they wanted to.
Law enforcement immediately launched a misleading PR offensive saying that this change would be a boon to criminals, including an article in the Washington Post that incorrectly claimed that without the ability to easily read everyone’s private communications, a kidnapping victim would have died.
Even though that story was shown to be false, that didn’t slow down the misinformation. The chief of detectives for Chicago’s police department declared:
Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile. The average pedophile at this point is probably thinking, I’ve got to get an Apple phone.
This is insane.
Next, no less than the head of the FBI came out and said to reporters:
I am a huge believer in the rule of law, but I also believe that no one in this country is beyond the law. … What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.
Rough translation is that anything you can do to protect your privacy should be illegal because it means that you can hide a crime from law enforcement.
Techdirt responded with a brilliant satire “FBI Director Angry At Homebuilders For Putting Up Walls That Hide Any Crimes Therein“. After all, encryption is nothing more than a wall to protect your privacy, and walls can be (and often are) used to hide crimes. And not just walls. I’m sure that pedophiles have often thought “I’ve got to get some curtains for my windows.”
But the FBI wasn’t done spreading fear:
There will come a day — well it comes every day in this business — when it will matter a great, great deal to the lives of people of all kinds that we be able to with judicial authorization gain access to a kidnapper’s or a terrorist or a criminal’s device. I just want to make sure we have a good conversation in this country before that day comes. I’d hate to have people look at me and say, ‘Well how come you can’t save this kid,’ ‘how come you can’t do this thing.’
This is bullshit.
What’s next? Will law enforcement agencies slam the manufacturers of paper shredders, because they can be used to hide evidence of criminal activity? Will they announce that they could have prevented the Great Recession in 2008 if only paper shredders hadn’t been widely available to investment bankers to hide their illegal and reckless financial transactions?