U.S. DOJ pressure on Apple will undermine encryption, harm human rights

The U.S. Department of Justice is trying to compel Apple to build software to bypass the security features of iPhones that keeps the devices’ hard drives encrypted. I guess DOJ lawyers don’t watch comic book movies.

Anyone who got to see Deadpool over the weekend (or read any of the comics) knows the character’s origin story. The man was promised he would be turned into a superhero, using a drug that activated “latent” mutant abilities. But in reality, he was being bred as a villain, in order to contribute to a criminal enterprise.

The truth is, once created, any ability can be used for good or bad. The same is true for backdoors into encryption. The DOJ’s request here would pave the way for government to compel companies to build in any number of vulnerabilities, which weakens our digital security infrastructure and, ultimately, hurts users, while doing nothing to stop or prevent criminal activity. Encryption is vital for the protection of human rights like free expression and privacy, and it safeguards the internet economy. The U.S. government’s actions run contrary to international law and policy and provide political cover for oppressive regimes to seek the same authority.

This is why Access Now, along with more than 200 organizations, experts, and companies, launched SecuretheInternet.org last month, which states, among other things, that “[g]overnments should not mandate the design or implementation of “backdoors” or vulnerabilities into tools, technologies, or services.” Access Now supports Apple in this case and strongly opposes the government’s actions.