Imagine, if you will, a law that said all doors had to be left unlocked so that the police could get in whenever they needed to. Or at the very least, a law mandating that the government have a master key.
That’s essentially what some in the government want for your technology. As companies like Apple and Google have embraced stronger encryption, they’re making it harder for the government to do the kind of easy instant collection that companies were forced into as the government chased terrorists after 9/11.
And how could you oppose that government access? After all, the government keeps us safe from criminals. Do you really want to make it easier for criminals to evade the law?
The analogy with your home doors suggests the flaw in this thinking: The U.S. government is not the only entity capable of using a master key. Criminals can use them too. If you create an easy way to bypass security, criminals — or other governments — are going to start looking for ways to reproduce the keys.
Or consider another case cited by the Times, in which the government is trying to get Microsoft to give up messages stored on a server in Ireland. With today’s global networks, it’s frustrating how easily criminals can move things out of reach of the law. On the other hand, do we want the law to have farther reach? It might be kind of frightening if other governments, with weaker civil liberties protections, could get access to any of our messages, just by getting an order from their local court.
Also, I don’t trust our own government agencies not to abuse their power for the benefit of the people in charge. Well, the Democrats in charge, anyway. I’m sure there’d be whistleblowers galore if a Republican administration tried something like that.