The Oct. 4 editorial “Smartphone secrets” stated that “Apple and Google’s new approach to encryption is too extreme” and that “perhaps Apple and Google could invent a kind of secure golden key they would retain and use only when a court has approved a search warrant.” This begs the question of “Whom do you trust?” If one does not trust either the phone manufacturer or the police, then what?
Technological methods exist that require a majority of “trusted” parties to agree before a key is made available. These parties could include the phone manufacturer, the police, a civil liberties organization, a news organization and others. Just how many parties should be involved and who they should be are difficult questions. An even more challenging one is whether the gain is worth the financial and social costs of such a solution.
Lance J. Hoffman, Chevy Chase
The writer is director of the Cyber Security Policy and Research Institute at George Washington University.
No “golden key” or other method allowing remote access to a device can be used only by the wizards at Apple and Google. The Allies won World War II in part because, given enough math and time, no code is unbreakable. If a device can be unlocked remotely, the Russian who created the GameOver Zeus botnet, the Chinese army’s hacking department and cyberspies, cybercriminals and cyberterrorists all over the world will hit that known vulnerability again and again until they get what they want.
For each theoretical criminal who might be stopped with easy phone unlocking, 10 regular citizens are more likely to have their bank accounts wiped out or personal information stolen by malcontents.
I’d rather live with a few crimes unsolved than have the police and the professional cybercriminal class gain better access to my phone than I have, despite it sitting in my hand.
Benjamin J. Cooper, Alexandria
The Post implored Apple and Google to devise a technical solution, but how well will that really work? Delegating control over the decryption key to one’s personal information in a connected world demands extraordinary trust. Should Americans be thinking bigger to decrypt this puzzle?
What if the key lies with our broken Congress? A democratic balance between privacy and law enforcement with the force of legitimacy must be founded on fair laws via fair representation. A Congress that does not fairly represent the people will struggle to make laws that engender trust in government institutions.
The Post may have identified the true “golden key” in its June 15 editorial “Blending red and blue.” Acknowledging and correcting structural impediments to fair representation in Congress would enable Americans to rebuild the trust underpinning their institutions, not only for the issue of encryption but also for much of what ails America. Just as technological advances pose new challenges to society, why wouldn’t Congress also be subject to occasional fine-tuning to keep up with the times?
Clark E. Cohen, Washington