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AG William Barr needs to hack your iPhone – jj
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AG William Barr needs to hack your iPhone

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Right now, Apple takes painstaking care to ensure that your Snapchats, iMessages, photos, and everything else on your iPhone stays secure. But if Attorney General William Barr gets his way, all your private data could soon be at risk.

Barr’s position isn’t exactly coming out of nowhere. Apple has been in a stand-off with law enforcement agencies for years now, with the tech giant wrapped up in legal challenges due to its noble refusal to create a software to unlock passcode-protected iPhones. The company has long held the belief that were they to create a tool to allow law enforcement to unlock iPhones, the technology could leak and put everyone’s data in jeopardy.

Barr isn’t buying it. Barr said at a cybersecurity conference this week that backdoor unlocking “can be and must be” done and that “there are technical solutions that will allow lawful access to encrypted data and communications by law enforcement, without materially weakening the security provided by encryption.”

The attorney general is dead wrong.

Law enforcement’s desire for an encryption tool is understandable, with serious problems posed by rare, disturbing instances such as the FBI’s inability to unlock the iPhone belonging to the 2015 San Bernardino shooter.

But fearmongering about security concerns to browbeat Apple into submission puts the civil liberties of all Americans in danger. We must retain realms of privacy the government cannot invade, lest the surveillance state expand to even more disturbing levels.

It’s no surprise that Barr’s antagonism toward Apple’s privacy protections runs against the recommendations of various civil liberties groups. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties watchdog, filed an amicus brief in 2016 supporting Apple, saying that forcing Apple to create backdoor software “would compromise the security of all its users around the world,” citing “the myriad ways this new authority could be abused.”

Apple concurred in its official statement:

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack.

Unfortunately, Barr’s latest stance on Apple’s encryption policy is just another troubling addition to his poor track record on issues of civil liberties. He has defended the unfair and unethical practice of civil asset forfeiture, where the assets of private citizens are indefinitely seized upon mere suspicion of a crime, and is a long-time advocate of invasive government surveillance.

This is why civil libertarians such as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., opposed President Trump’s decision to nominate Barr for attorney general, despite his ample qualifications. Paul said at the time that “While I support President Trump and have supported most of his nominees, I have too many concerns about the record and views of this nominee.”

In hindsight, more people should have taken Paul’s concerns seriously. By failing to defend civil liberties, Barr is failing the Americans whose legal rights he is supposed to protect.

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