It’s hard to improve on Charlie Savage’s story and the many good discussions of the civil liberties implications of the Obama administration’s desire to mandate back doors to encrypted messaging systems like BlackBerry and Skype. I just want to point out that, in addition to the violation of privacy, it’s also bad business and bad security.
It’s bad business because it opens the doors to companies that aren’t governed by US law to create competing solutions and sell them in places where US law doesn’t apply. BlackBerry may buckle under and allow a back door to remain a player in the US market, but some other player could well create a smartphone messaging system that doesn’t have a back door and sell it in the parts of the world that don’t give a shit about US law. And other companies may create smartphone software (apps) that run on top of your iPhone or BlackBerry’s phone or messaging apps to encrypt voice and text traffic, but those companies will be headquartered (and employ engineers) somewhere beyond Eric Holder’s reach.
It’s bad security because a back door is an opening that can be breached by hackers as well as law enforcement, and the existence of a back door makes the system that has one an immediate target of hackers. RIM, the maker of BlackBerry, may not care about your civil rights, but they sure as hell don’t want to be the target of a hack that leverages a back door that they put in to satisfy the US, UAE and India.
A back door to publicly-available encryption has been the wet dream of law enforcement for decades. The last attempt, Clipper, died a quick and inglorious death, and I can only hope that the current idiocy is tucked away in a grave soon, and buried deep.