Video Of The Week: John Oliver on Encryption
Quite a few people sent me this video to watch. I’m watching it this morning and sharing it with all of you at the same time.
Quite a few people sent me this video to watch. I’m watching it this morning and sharing it with all of you at the same time.
I think Apple is clearly fighting the slippery slope battle with this. They think if they end up bowing to pressure to help the government, the next thing will be the laws not allowing certain encrypted apps on the iphone (13:20 in the video; re telegram). At that point market share ends up with overseas companies.That said, Apple’s business model and profits are not a concern of law enforcement.  Noting how Philly was shut down (no car access for 3 or 4 days) and there was great economic harm when the Pope came to town.
That commercial issue is much larger than just Apple sales, it is about the trustworthiness of all American based data-handling products both hardware and software !
Which is a business and economic issue. I’d be willing to say that the mass of people buying Apple products are not people afraid of their governments and even if that was the case it’s not like they have many good alternatives.
Look, real power/national-security ultimately rides in on a nation’s economic prowess !And if Americans are not starting to fear their government ( secret courts and all) it is simply because they are not bothering to utilize the free press resource they are so blessed to have at their disposal.
I don’t fear the government. We get along just fine. As far as their incompetence it’s not like I am going to go to work for them, so it’s just a necessary evil in my mind. I don’t loose sleep over this, I loose sleep over other things (which is not often). To me I see examples of people sucking at their jobs and their attitude every single day. It’s not limited to people working for the government.
“I’d be willing to say that the mass of people buying Apple products are not people afraid of their governments”but 7 out of 10 Trump supporters are iPhone users
So what % of Apple customers, if offered a choice, would decide to chose the FBI-friendly weaker encryption option at initial setup time when they buy a new iPhone ?So there you have your answer.Not to how how many Apple customers are afraid of their government but to how many customers would chose to error on the side of caution at protecting their data/personal autonomy against all comers.
would chose to error on the side of caution at protecting their data/personal autonomy against all comers.It’s irrational. Most of those people probably not only use laptops that don’t have encryption turned on (or with easy guessable passwords), but they leave those laptops in all sorts of places where they are easily stolen (like autos). Ditto for people with desktops at their house that could be easily stolen.  We can also discuss people who let strangers into their houses by renting those houses on airbnb, or who hold parties with strangers at their house, coming and going. It’s unclear to me what (and I have been doing this for longer than most people have) the fear of this type of thing on an iphone and encryption is exactly.And once again for the 100th time the fact that the government has some backdoor and access does not mean they will use that access to enforce crimes against any particular person for the mundane law breaking that they do. It’s possible. But I see it way down on the risk scale. Of course if people want to continue to make themselves unhappy about something that may possibly happen then that is their choice. (They should probably give some thought to things that have more probability of happening in their lives from their own actions).This is no more than the same fervor the media gets everyone into whenever they are on some story that drives readership. (Like ebola and avian flu as the past examples). And don’t start with this “the entire world has access to your device” bullshit.
the fbi is weird
Russia and China don’t need validation from what happens in the US. They can simply dictate what they want and Apple has to decide whether they want to sell their products there or not. Along the same lines Apple can’t (easily) threaten to pull production from China of it’s products. So it has little leverage in that respect.
well, BlackBerry caved in to India a few years ago.http://thenextweb.com/asia/…
I think the thing that people are having a hard time coming to grips with is that all behavior (whether commerce or not) is typically regulated in one way or another by the government. Where I am (as where you are) I can’t do something as mundane as erect a sign where it is not allowed regardless of anything contained in the constitution. Tightly restricted. I can’t drive my car faster than the speed limit w/o risking a ticket. Government says “that may harm someone”. (And there are obviously dozens of examples). In this case the government has simply decided that a particular product (an encrypted communications device) is a risk because it allows (they feel; not taking sides here just pointing something out) criminals to hide their tracks. And like with regulating weapons, the fact that other weapons are available doesn’t change the fact that you want to regulate certain things. (What I will call the “pot is no worse than alcohol so let’s allow pot argument”). This is really a classic Scotus battle that will end up in the obvious place to be decided. I could argue either side of this one.I think if you (ntim) asked most american citizens they aren’t particularly bothered by this particular issue. Tech people are in a very aspy way of course because they are exposed to the echo chamber each and every day and a) don’t like the government typically and b) have a particular ox to gore or axe to grind (or whatever the saying is).
You explain that argument well, but here’s the thing.It’s about trust, and “earned trust”. The FBI, NSA, LE’s (not you, Law Enforcement authorities) and governments in general (in any country) assume that citizens should trust them blindly, about anything.The thing is,- even governments need to “earn” our trust. What assurance do we have that they aren’t going to harm the good and innocent people? Track record is helpful as a pointer. Sadly, in the US, LE’s haven’t been forthcoming and open, to the point that they can be trusted by us, judging by the most recent behavior with NSA spying, prying, etc..Basically, what Apple is telling the FBI: “We don’t trust you, and we don’t trust you will only do the right thing. Our customers trust us, but we can’t pass that trust on to you, because our standards of trust are different.”
The thing is a private company doesn’t get to decide this type of thing. Anymore than Uber can decide to not follow laws or lawful requests. The only reason that we are even discussing this is because Apple has enough money and power (as I pointed out in a comment last week I think) to have the best lawyers, a large and involved and influential customer base, and a great deal of media coverage and empathy.  If that was not the case the government would crush them and they’d be squealing like the pig that they are. (I love their products by the way).I think to enforce law and order, and for this not to become a slippery slope for the government, they have to come down hard on Apple for this one. Otherwise every pain in the ass will challenge and want to re-write laws to their liking (which of course already happens but will become much worse).This is like “to big to comply” not any better than “to big to fail”. Which helps with getting the general public on their side (it’s a feedback loop).
“to big to comply” – true. – what’s the government doing to gain some empathy? or earn more trust? wouldn’t that help their case a bit more, knowing they are dealing with a gorilla case?
No it’s the opposite. Fear is what keeps ordinary people in line. And empathy doesn’t help with real criminals.The thing that keeps people from driving 100mph is fear of a ticket. Doesn’t matter if they respect the government or not. I would imagine most people operate the same way.Israel has long operated under the doctrine of not being able to reason with arabs, they only thing they understand is being hit over the head. (Ditto for extremists in Israel by the way..)Lastly, there are things that the government must do that ordinary people will never understand because they don’t have the aptitude or the patience or the intelligence. (People don’t typically understanding eminent domain and why it is necessary and will fall for a “push a little old lady on cancer out of her house” sob story.)
Once a company, person or government abuses or tramples on trust, it’s very difficult to earn it back.This isn’t a clear case of 100mph or 80mph. It’s more like, do you put speed bumps along all roads to slow down drivers, or do speed limit signs suffice? Is the car dealer who sold you the car, or bank who gave you a loan allowed to keep an extra set of keys to your car, just because…in case you do something bad with the car?
“The thing is a private company doesn’t get to decide this type of thing.”That of course is the sad thing here!A proper open/comprehensive political debate in congress is where this important long-term big-picture issue should be decided.Apple should not find itself in the position of making the case for the social value/importance of encryption against a particular state policing agency. This issue is simply too larger a systemic democracy issue to be dealt with in such an ad hoc way.That of course would require that both the congress and president step up to the plate and take responsibility for making some tough non-partisan decisions here.Apparently they both prefer a proxy show-down court battle between Apple and the FBI as their preferred democratic solution to this issue.
Really well said, @[email protected]:disqus
This is a red herring in a way (The BB thing). That system was designed with a back door. It was not Blackberry Enterprise Server where the company itself has access to the master keys and not Blackberry, it was consumer Blackberry where BB had the keys all along.
Yet it is the US government that first moves to make such demands of Apple?Where does this American blind faith that a police-state can’t happen here come from? Police-state tactics never look like such as they quietly slip in the back door of presumptive “can’t happen here” complacency.This issue pivots around the sea change of organic complexity/interdependencies that the netwok-effect inherently imposes on us and our new cyber-exchange adaptive-everything reality.Complex network-effect high-flux social/economic interdependencies simply require some form of cellular containment as a method of inertial dampening against systemic over heating and that to me is the pivotally important role “encryption” now plays.All high-flux systems require some form of negative-feedback/restraints to maintain stability. “Encryption” fills that crucial cellular/modular boundary/containment role in a network-effect-driven living-system of complex social interdependencies.Biology is our beat cheat sheet !
I like your system dynamics “bio” approach and talk. We have the computing power and a lot of data to rethink and recompute traditional system dynamics, maybe even with an AI touch. Would love to have more ‘quality time’ to spend on these.
Encryption is easy to implement, difficult to use, and impossible to agree upon.
Apparently Apple has made it too easy to use for the FBI’s liking.And it will be hard to agree upon only until trustworthiness encryption has widely collapsed. This issue is much larger than terrorism as sad as that fact may be.
“This issue is much larger than terrorism as sad as that fact may be.”Agreed.
Very well said, Sir
Excellent crypto is available to everybody who buys an iPhone and sets a passcode/fingerprint. It’s nearly unbreakable and it’s so simple to use that nobody even knows they are using it. I would say it inverts the traditional statement above. It’s difficult to implement crypto that’s so easy to use 😉
Well, in my view, there is more to encryption than just unlocking an iphone. Is your email secured by encryption? Are you files on your PC encrypted? For most users, the answer is No, because it’s not easy to set it up that way.To a cryptography expert, crypto is easy.
True, true. But I also argue that most people are getting more and better crytpo at, literallly, almost no barrier to entry other than buying a phone and installing an app. Many of the messaging apps are end-to-end encrypted and nobody knows it. Email encryption has never worked out precisely because of what you say — it’s just too damned difficult to do and understand.
Also, just to say it: PC? what’s that? Email? Never heard of it? Those are both going away 😉
Encryption at a theoretical level maybe easy for those qualified, but I disagree with you on the implementation part. Encryption implementations have been frequently found to be flawed and so, viable to brake. The whole internet network of trust is quite broken in my opinion, just as Snowden showed us it was.It is very telling that the authorities are now asking for help, maybe Apple built a correct implementation and that is all the fuzz about. Why no one had to ask for help before?
Their depiction of a frustrated engineer is the best I’ve ever seen.
Agreed.Furthermore, as a geek myself watching this video go viral, I was very happy to see that they got the tech discussions correct. This is very helpful to get the average person on the street to wrap their head around a complex topic.
Great video. I wonder what/who will give in this riveting impasse. …’Cause eventually, something’s got to give. Yet it’s hard to envision an acceptable solution that wouldn’t be rendered useless on implementation because engineering access for FBI creates a replicable event subject to misuse at home and worse by other parties abroad, affecting individual and national security. Very discouraging when the only effect on related future crime is that perps will just switch to alternative encryption tools.
HBO’s Evolution:1996: Tales of the Crypt2016: Tales of Encryptionhttp://www.gstatic.com/tv/t…
Gee, dead ringer — my high school plane geometry teacher!Greatest absurdity in the world: On the first day of class, in front of a room half full of 10th grade girls, drop dead gorgeous beyond belief — mother nature never did better — from a high school that had several girls get famous in Hollywood, she said “I’m single but I’m still hoping”. Hopeless.
Oliver and his team make the case perfectly and with humour to boot.
Whichever side you’re on in this debate, it’s important that people have a voice in the decision. We shouldn’t gloss over our civil liberties and simply leave it in the hands of a single agency, industry or platform of users.Regardless of Apple’s motives to fight back, it’s the right decision at this stage; time to pump the brakes, have a rich debate and due process of law before we lose the ability and choice to actually have one.
i completely agree. that’s why i am writing and posting about this a lot
“Law is, in effect, an information technology—a code that regulates social life.”* http://www.city-journal.org…We need to consider carefully what happens when the mathematical language of encryption and optimal outcomes counts more than human language of ethics and opportunity.This is at the core of the existential examination we’re having about what type of capitalism, democracy and technology we really want and hope for our and future generations.This is also why we need to get Natural Language in AI right so the machines can help us model all the nuances and complexities of our social contracts — not simply in a quant way but also in a qualitative way so we can ensure the quality of life in our human endeavors as they affect global society.
Are we hearing the government’s debate directly, or only via the Apple lens?
I sincerely appreciate Fred’s lead and the AVC community for this exact reason – engaged people are changing the face of the debate.
Total riot! Comedy grade A+!In addition, Oliver looks like a bright guy or at least one bright enough to get a lot of expert help.Definitely time to replay the early Apple Mac, Ridley Scott ad about 1984 and Big Brother athttps://www.youtube.com/wat…So, let’s see: Apple and Android have sold a lot of smartphones, and Apple has become a company just stuffed with cash. Now in a significant sense, the FBI has suddenly made all the smartphones sold to date obsolete!Obsolete! Wow!So, as I type this, lots of Apple geniuses are keeping their little brain neurons flashing working out how to implement strong encryption no one, not even Apple, can break and, then, sell those new iPhones by the billions ASAP before someone starts passing laws against them.So, this means that the Foxconn people in China will have to work 24 x 7 not just to make a new model of the iPhone but make enough of them right away to replace all the smartphones made so far?And the price? Who will be asking the price?So, all the money Apple and Android have made so far Apple stands to make again right away?No, you say, maybe even more?So, the FBI did what, before they threw out all this effluent to hit the fan, bought calls on Apple stock? Naw.Maybe Lindsey Graham will propose some laws to(1) Make it illegal to generate, use, or possess a prime number.(2) Set pi to a nice, simple, rational 3.0 instead of the irrational 3.14159265359 ….(3) Same for setting e to 2.71828182846 ….(4) Set P = NP.(5) Outlaw anyone sayinge^(i Π) – 1 = 0(7) Repeal the associative, commutative, and distributive laws of the real numbers.(8) Forbid possession of the Pythagorean theorem, the triangle inequality, the parallelogram equality, continuity, convexity, compactness, and completeness.(9) Rule out curved space-time and make Newton’s theories the law of the land.(10) Forbid using the Gram-Schmidt process.(11) Outlaw the Gibbs phenomenon in Fourier series.(12) Mandate leech bleeding as the first effort in all of medicine.Off Topic Question:I have a desktop computer that suddenly is temperature sensitive: If the motherboard temperature is below about 105 F, then (A) the gigibit Ethernet network interface hardware concludes that the Ethernet cable is unplugged, (B) much use of Firefox on complicated Web pages causes Firefox to get a fatal exceptional condition, and (C) occasionally Windows ends suddenly and abnormally.Still, for all or nearly all usage without the Internet or Firefox, the computer seems fine. So, I can edit files, copy files, walk the file system directory tree, compile and run my own programs, etc. So, maybe the bottom half of the physical memory addresses are fine and the problem is in the upper half of the physical memory addresses.So, for a single cause, sounds like maybe some intermittent errors in main memory as seen by the network interface chip and/or the processor.So, maybe there is a weak connection in the motherboard or a bad main memory dual in-line memory module (DIMM).Maybe now my ASUS motherboard, several years old, has some bad capacitors, as was said to be the case for some ASUS motherboards.Replacing the motherboard and rebuilding all the software would be a lot of botheration.Any hints from experience?Maybe boot the utility MEMTEST86, run until get some memory errors, and see if they are at just a few memory addresses. Then see if those are all in the same DIMM — I have two DIMMs, each 1 GB. If all the errors are in just one DIMM, then maybe get a new DIMM. Memory is not very expensive now, for large DIMMs, maybe $7 per GB.So, is it at all credible that a DIMM could go bad, that the problem could be a DIMM instead of the motherboard?Or maybe just run with just one DIMM for a while and see if the problem goes away. Then get a new DIMM for the one that was out of the computer when the problem went away.Sure, the usual approach to such problem solving — replace parts until the problem goes away. So, start with a new 1 GB DIMM and replace the motherboard only as the last effort?Any other ideas?
I have had that type of problems and suspected that the cause was decaying capacitors, it made sense but I but couldn’t really verify that that was the root cause. What I could verify was that the power supply was not delivering the correct voltages to the motherboard. Voltages were a bit on the low side so I decided to raise the nominal voltages supplied to the CPU and the memory modules manipulating the BIOS configuration with the hope that this would correct the abnormal voltages to normal operating levels. This corrected the problem and gave me a stable system for a few months until the power supply eventually die. So memory modules need the correct power levels supplied to them, an aging system may fail doing so. If you go this route be very careful to increment the voltages in very small increments until you get memtest tests passing.The second time I had an unstable system was due to CPU cooling failures, the symptoms were much the same as those that you describe and I could tell something was wrong because the fans were running at a unusually high pitch. The sytem was running hot. I fixed that unmounting the CPU and cleaning the thermal contact surface and applying fresh thermal paste before mounting again.If you want to replace the memory modules it is not a good idea to mix modules from different vendors, even from different batches from the same vendor.Check your power supply.Good luck.+ knock, knock, knock – Sir, please open the door. We know you are in the possesion of illegal extremely large prime numbers. Drop them and come outside with your hands up, this is the last warning..
Thanks!I have my old, bootable MEMTEST86 diskette right here!I’m not sure my now old BIOS gives voltages, but I’ll check. The power supply is an Antec 550 Watt thingy, and I have the documentation on voltages, currents, etc.I run the ASUS Probe software that gives the CPU temperature, and it seems okay.Yes, thanks for the point about memory DIMM stick matching.So, sure, apparently the BIOS has to query the memory sticks for various parameters, e.g., Column Access Strobe (CAS) latency, and, then, decide on how to access the memory. E.g., Kingston memory has data sheets with lots of timing details. So, better that all the DIMMs look the same to the BIOS. Good point.If I do too much with the old computer, it might die on the operating table!!But, sounds like about time to plug together a second computer, maybe, from some shopping,MotherboardASUS M5A97 R2.0 AM3+, ATX$97.99ProcessorAMD FD8350FRHKBOX FX-8350 Eight-Core 4GHz AM3+ Processor – AM3+, Eight-Core, 4GHz, 16MB, 125W, Unlocked$164.37MemoryMotherboard documentation says DDR3 1333MHz memory ECC/non-ECCKingston:16GB Kit* (2x8GB) – DDR3 1333MHzPart Number: KVR1333D3E9SK2/16GSpecs: DDR3 , 1333MHz , ECC , CL9 , 1.5V , Unbuffered , DIMM , Spec Sheet PDF$112Rotating Hard DriveWD Blue 2TB Desktop Hard Disk Drive – 5400 RPM SATA 6 Gb/s 64MB Cache 3.5 Inch – WD20EZRZ$76.99CaseGet a simple, mid-tower case, with good places for fans for air flow, hopefully in beige to make everything easier to see without a lot of strong lights.OtherUse spare Antec 650 Watt Platinum (efficiency) power supply and old video card.MoreGet two boot partitions running and backed up.Then try to fix the old computer.If can’t fix the old computer, then move some of its parts to the new computer and keep its power supply as a spare.Etc.”Extremely large prime numbers”!A total RIOT!Ah, possession of illegal numbers!”No! All I have is what I found long ago in the famous A Short Table of Even Primes.”Thanks!
Oh yes, your time is the most valuable asset. Building a new one instead of tinkering with the old one is a very wise decision.
Thanks.Time — good point.I looked at the BIOS screens, and they do show the main voltages. Actually so does the ASUS probe software. I compared with voltages from this computer some years ago, and nothing looks very low. E.g., yesterday I got CPU Temperature: 120 F MB Temperature: 107 F CPU Fan: 3325 RPM Power Fan: 0 RPM (normal) Chassis Fan: 2410 RPM +12 v 11.84 +5 v 4.972 +3.3 v 3.232 VCORE 1.358What is consistent is that the system is the most stable with a motherboard temperature of about 108 F. Strange.I do want to call Kingston and chat about DIMM voltages.But for time, setting up the new computer would be a lot of work, too — Microsoft Office, .NET Framework, SQL Server Express edition, IIS and its configuration, Firefox and extensions, Google Chrome, my favorite scripting language Rexx, my favorite editor KEdit, Knuth’s TeX for mathematical word processing. Then Microsoft updates. And an issue — my copy of Office is from 2003, and the updates, which were important, might no longer be available. I don’t much use Office so don’t want a new version but would like still to have access to the old version for occasional usage.Also, I’m in essentially alpha test of the software for my startup and would like to get through at least alpha test, maybe a private beta test, before breaking off to build a new computer.
To think that Apple and the Government can’t already read your data is the real joke.
Not at all. It won’t be long before even the iCloud backups are unreadable by Apple, I’d be willing to bet.
What I really want to understand is how we circumvent the bad guys, and preserve our Constitutional liberties. I’d love to see someone like Geoff Stone from the University of Chicago Law School take a stab at it. Instead of just focusing on the technology, maybe we should focus on principles first-then try and figure out how to apply them to technology.Of course, if there is only one code……once you crack it there is probably no stopping it from getting out. I wonder if there is a third way to think about this. We tend to get painted into corners with a false dichotomy of choice; Yes or No, black or white, left or right, pro-life or pro-choice etc.I am also sensitive to government’s tendency to go on fishing expeditions. Is this just another fishing expedition? Hard to know.
It’s a good question. is there another way? Maybe. Is it possible with the current way? Not at all.
I’m on the side which is most pro-people.
‘John Oliver on Coinbase’ would be the next one i recommend him to consider doing.i have never known such a sub standard level of technical and customer support in the bitcoin space.not a sunny blog comment.
That was really compelling and put into such plain language. Thanks for sharing it!Americans aren’t good at nuance (as Oliver points out). Oliver is good at simplifying nuanced things.
Extra credit for brevity.
Longer: Americans are fine at nuance. It’s condescension we don’t do well with.
Thanks for sharing. Nice to meet you.
Perhaps I am taking offense where none was intended. Nice to meet you too.
Our data will probably never be totally safe… and since it’s the new oil… so let’s sell our drilling rights
I have finally had time to watch the video and I agree with it 100%. I simply don’t see how the argument isn’t basically over when one sees the fact that regardless of what happens in this case, the “bad guys” still have access — for free — to unbreakable crypto and the US law will do nothing about that. Damaging US economic interests, destroying citizens’ privacy, introducing immense vulnerability into what is literally the most important information and economic ecosystem (mobile) in tech (and a bunch of other industries), removing the entire concept of “strong cryptography”, and all sorts of other detrimental potential outcomes are not even remotely a reasonable trade-offs for setting this dangerous precedent.And, no, I’m not a libertarian at all — I’m a security expert and leader by trade. I’m not approaching this with a “privacy above everything else” blinder strapped to my head. I’ve built and dealt with systems with mandated “back doors” in the past — it *always* goes wrong.
Apple should show this in court. Certainly, a lot cheaper than all the lawyers.
I have two minds on this.. one, when people die, you have forgone rights, and some one should be able to get enough information to know all of what happened. 2. The NSA’s director is on tape, lying about the scope of their programs, and the government is currently involved in going after people for “crimes” it’s charter says it should leave well enough alone. There is more than compelling reason for an Information rights national debate, discussion and encoding, since it is also troubling that people with the right access can get information on people, that they do not have access to themselves.
As far as the legal question goes, it seems to me between the 4th- with a warrant, and eminent domain, meaning the govt pays for Apple’s costs, they can legally get what they want if at all possible. I think it would be a horrible idea for the government to own that software, as at least there are request tracks with an outside agency.
@fredwilson:disqus are you mirroring/serving 2 versions of your site? E.g. there appear to be 2 copies of this post; one secure (preceded by https) and one not. Yesterday I commented on the former yesterday and noticed there were no comments, which I found odd but assumed disqus was just not fully loading for whatever reason. Today I noticed the insecure (plain http) version loaded with comments but didn’t include mine.My original comment:Great video. I wonder what/who will give in this riveting impasse. …’Cause eventually, something’s got to give. Yet it’s hard to envision an acceptable solution that wouldn’t be rendered useless on implementation because engineering access for FBI creates a replicable event subject to misuse at home and worse by other parties abroad, affecting individual and national security. Very discouraging when the only effect on related future crime is that perps will just switch to alternative encryption tools.
Laughed heartily, thanks for the share.
http://arstechnica.co.uk/te…no organised group uses the webnet. framing the encryption debate around terrorism is a red herring. companies like Apple and, Google, et.c., and agencies like the FBI, NSA et.c. work in partnership together behind the scenes. what the public see is a choreographed charade.
Isn’t he the guy that said” if you shot encryption on the senate floor and had the murder trial in the senate you couldn’t get a conviction”