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Apple CEO Tim Cook challenges Obama with impassioned stand on privacy (theguardian.com)
345 points by mikek on Feb 14, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 190 comments



I don't get it. Why is everyone (including Snowden) talking about personal moments, privacy, intimacy etc when the problem is clearly about tyranny, dictatorship and misuse of power? We have very specific and numerous evidence that in the past the state used its powers to spy, threaten and discredit ideological opponents and activists, from M. L. King to all anti-war movements since Vietnam. Since the dawn of history the "state" was always the biggest threat to the safety of it's "citizens", not external aggression. We need to stay safe from our own state, that is why we must not give up our privacy, not because of some silly naked pictures on your phone.


Why is everyone (including Snowden) talking about personal moments, privacy, intimacy etc when the problem is clearly about tyranny, dictatorship and misuse of power?

In the US, to sell a political idea, it has to be seen as non-ideological. The branding has to paint a message of at least a "reasonable" or "balanced" position. In the very best case the position should appear downright non-political to the people primed to believe them; often referred to as "common sense solutions".

Since the dawn of history the "state" was always the biggest threat to the safety of it's "citizens", not external aggression.

This generally sounds like tin foil hat crazyness to people who have been taught to not have that thought by their political allegiances.


The local law enforcer is inherently more dangerous than the foreigner. It's a simple function of points of contact. That's not to argue that we should not enforce laws.


It sounds like tin foil hat craziness because it has been wholly discredited by tin foil hatters.


The same people that warned everybody that the state had the technical ability and disposition to monitor all communication? Can you see how your weakness for ad hominem might play right into a disinformation tactic as old as the state, the agent provocateur?


I didn't say they were wrong. Am I incorrect? Do you think it sounds like tin foil hat crazyness to people for a different reason?


> Do you think it sounds like tin foil hat crazyness to people for a different reason?

Yes, for the same reason that you replied to. Here, let me distill it for you:

>> (forgottenpass) This generally sounds like tin foil hat crazyness to people who have been taught to not have that thought by their political allegiances.

> (you) It sounds like tin foil hat craziness because it has been wholly discredited by tin foil hatters.

Do you see what you did there?


Of course, if you believe they were taught that by their political allegiances via an agent provocateur, as you suggested, the two statements are one and the same :)


No. Your statements appear to advocate the position that "tin foil hatters" are marginalized by themselves. My position is that appealing to ad hominem attacks makes you vulnerable to agent provocateurs, beyond the original problem of the group think coming from "political allegiances" - the primary problem.

This group think leads to the easy classification of outsiders as "fin foil hatters", which leads to the lazy ad hominem. Agent provocatueurs don't have to be secret agents of the state - tasked by others in smoke filled back rooms, they are often well meaning group members attempting to marginalize those they consider "others".


For the average person, they've grown up in a world where they've learned through school, the media, their parents, and 95% of other sources of knowledge about this world that the State (in an abstract form, not with an R, D, or other political party affiliation tied to it because of those currently in power) is a protector, friend, keeper of order, etc. To attack or criticize the State (in abstract terms) and say that it could potentially abuse it's power, is like saying that your parents or some other loved one could potentially betray you.

If someone tells you your mother or father could potentially steal from you because their name is tied to your bank account, how does that make you feel? Do you feel like this person is right, or you do get defensive and say that could never possibly happen? Most defend their parents and their parents' trustworthiness. The same goes for their view of the State.

The difference between your parents and the State though, is that different individuals of varying trustworthiness move into and out of power. As this happens, eventually some bad actors will gain power, and those who depend on that established trust will be badly hurt.


Let me offer a counterpoint. The average Internet anarcho-libertarian has grown up so coddled by the benefits of first-world government they don't even understand why they need it. They go out in the street and feel safe and think that's just how human societies are. They talk about jack-boot thugs, but they've never experienced fear of a real one. They have no experiences that would let them comprehend a world without a monopoly on violence. A world where small groups of people using organized violence can terrorize the majority. A world where the background threat of violence at the hands of government is replaced with in-your-face actual violence from the vicious people among your fellow man.


That's a false dilemma. It's not about our current government vs no government, it's about complacency vs reform.

Most libertarians are not "anarcho-libertarian", whatever that actually means, nor are we anarchists.

I think most of us agree that a state is important. The question, which people have been grappling with as long as there have been states, is how to make sure that the state is benevolent--that it actually works in ordinary people's favor, rather than degenerating into a relationship of oppression and exploitation.

The libertarian question, specifically, is how do you ensure that the state respects people's individual freedoms?

History has shown mass surveillance to be antithetical to individual freedom. So our goal is to abolish mass surveillance.

You said we're "so coddled by the benefits of a first-world government". Do you think MLK was coddled by his gov't when he was hounded by the FBI, sent threats, & imprisoned for his words? We are lucky that the surveillance capabilities of the state back then were much more limited than they are today.

Today, every email in your inbox, every text, every cell phone GPS coordinate, every draft in your drafts folder is plaintext in a big database. That database is searchable by bureaucrats you'll never meet. Even if they never type in "rayiner" specifically, this state of affairs is dangerous to the freedom we all enjoy. Just because we have it better than some unlucky people elsewhere, doesn't mean that we should stop trying to fix our own society here and now.


I didn't mean to imply it was a choice of current government versus no government--my post was a limited response to the idea of the state being the most dangerous thing. I think it's tremendously important to constantly strive for better government.

As for solutions:

> Today, every email in your inbox, every text, every cell phone GPS coordinate, every draft in your drafts folder is plaintext in a big database.

And whose fault is that? The government didn't create SMTP, SMS, webmail, etc. You can't have privacy from the government without creating a culture of privacy. We have a culture where people share extremely intimate information with their thousand "closest friends" via Facebook, Twitter, etc. People are not going to trust the government less than their random acquaintances, and people aren't going to demand privacy from the government unless the culture shifts such that they value privacy in other aspects of their lives.


Actually, the government did create SMTP (Postel was on a DARPA grant) and SMS (CEPT was an association of state-run PTTs, and Hillebrand in particular was a Deutsche Bundespost employee); and the US government in particular worked very hard indeed to stop SMTP, TCP, and IP from getting encryption added to them, what with treating cryptographic software as a “munition” and export-controlling it, plus constantly stymieing working groups in the IETF and other places that tried to standardize encryption.

> People are not going to trust the government less than their random acquaintances,

It sounds like you’ve never met an immigrant, a black person, or a poor person? Because that statement of yours sounds totally absurd to me.


> Today, every email in your inbox, every text, every cell phone GPS coordinate, every draft in your drafts folder is plaintext in a big database.

> And whose fault is that?

That fault lies with the people directing the assembly of the information into the database.

But agreed with your comment on Internet anarcho-libertarians. That is not a view grounded in rough and tumble world reality. The state is necessary to the human condition. I just wish we had better ones that took a broader view.


There are huge databases with all your text messages and emails. The government didn't create them. Software engineers did. And once you condition people to accept that, you'll sound like a nutter complaining about the government having data that's already strewn all over the Internet.

That's why I'm hoping Tim Cook runs with what he is saying here. In principle, I can send iMessages that even Apple can't read. If you condition people to expect privacy, they will demand it from the government too.


This is interesting to follow; I basically agree with your take, but I also know precisely the kind of libertarian "anarcho-capitalist" type that Rayiner is effectively responding to, folks who follow in the footsteps of Murray Rothbard and company. They elevate "coercion" to the highest possible crime: you cannot have a state that isn't invested with the power to coerce its citizens' behavior, ergo a benevolent state is impossible. So they fashion themselves anarchists, either unaware of or choosing to downplay the very anti-capitalist roots of anarchism. (And Rayiner's observation about the frequent criticism of "a state monopoly on violence" from that crowd is one I've also had; as opposed to what, exactly, a free market for violence? Or a natural monopoly on it, perhaps? I understand their criticism to be valid concerns about what the failure conditions of that monopoly lead to, but many of the alternatives are horrifying in their success conditions.)

Turning this back on the actual topic, though, what do you think the libertarian response to the problems in your last paragraph should really be? I can't think of any reforms which don't still depend on the state following its own rules for both what it's allowed to collect and what it can do with the data it does collect. Granted, merely having those rules--which we largely don't--would be an improvement, but it feels like it's in the "necessary but not sufficient" category.


> History has shown mass surveillance to be antithetical to individual freedom. So our goal is to abolish mass surveillance.

It has? When?


Every modern authoritarian regime relies on mass surveillance as a cornerstone of its power.

Edit: for example, North Korea, Soviet bloc countries past and present, Fascist states...


I always thought it was the oppressive laws, poor economies, concentration camps and (in many cases) out right starvation of the populace that held the people in check. To me those things seem a lot more important that the gov't snooping on my email.


So just because we are not rounding dissenters up into concentration camps or starving half the population to death David Cameron (or whoever the next one is) should be able to search my entire communication and location history?

That attitude sends society rapidly back to the concentration camps and starvation.

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."



>It has? When?

A precise example: "the Stasi" in East Germany during the 80s.


I won't try and speak for all anarcho-capitalists, but I've experienced both extremes of the spectrum - and my political position is not a result of some kind of preferred violence. It is a moral issue, as I don't believe that the end justifies the means. In order to support the state, you have to be of that mindset, that the end justifies the means.


This is my experience too. I was just a garden variety minarchist libertarian before I had travelled widely. Seeing the common thread throughout the world that everywhere you go the people calling themselves the state exhibit the same totalitarian thuggishness is what drove me over the edge into being anarchocapitalist.

I find it tragically naive to see statists adopting this position as if they're the world weary travellers that don't wish to be bothered by the naivete of others that can't see the necessity of their chains, when the reality is closer to the exact opposite.


There are some striking anti-vaxxer parallels here.


It's also like the religious fundamentalists who insist "you can just pray the gay away." As far as most people are concerned, the premise that all violence is absolutely unnecessary is not a widely held position. Indeed, it's more commonly seen as an exercise in extreme wishful thinking, on par with believing that it's possible to walk on water or leap from a building and fly.

Sure, you can flatly insist "the ends don't justify the means" but this is begging the question in that it assumes the means in are unequivocally wrong. Most people aren't about to make that assumption when it comes to violence. In other words, the tack taken by our friendly anarcho-libertarian here is is a bit like hitting a baseball and making a dash straight for second base. Sorry, kid, but nope.

To get to second you've first got to convince us that all violence is absolutely, supremely wrong in each and every case. Only then will the "ends don't justify the means" argument have a leg to stand on.

Good luck.


>>As far as most people are concerned, the premise that all violence is absolutely unnecessary is not a widely held position.

This is a straw man that, quite frankly, I'm left scratching my head as to where you got it from. People commit violence when they can get something they want by doing so, and won't face repercussions for the violent act. The places around the world that are widely considered the most violent countries are those that have strong (sometimes authoritarian) central governments, and few rights individuals can exercise to protect themselves on a local level. Examples - China, Russia, Brazil, the Middle East.

The reason this is the case is because the vast majority of citizens in these locations are law-abiding citizens, meaning they won't break the law to own a gun to protect themselves, or take other measures necessary to ensure their own protection, other than depending on the government (either local or national). Then, what happens is government law enforcement fails, because we're human and we all make mistakes - national law enforcement may not be present, local law enforcement may be corrupt or incompetent, or hundreds of other reasons failure could take place. When the law enforcement fails though, regardless of the reason, those law abiding citizens who don't have any means of protecting themselves are now vulnerable to pretty much anyone.

I hope you realize, and can think deeply enough, to understand that the problem of violence is not one that has a binary solution to be solved only via monopoly powers of government. There are literally thousands of creative ideas that can be tried to combat violence...before resorting to coercion by the State. If you read the other posts here, you would understand how those ideas could be explored, and also why they have pretty much died out.

No libertarian or anarcho-liberterian lives in a fantasy world where they think they can just 'wish away' violence. They just understand the answer to violence is not as simple as a vote for 'yes' or 'no' on a ballot box. If that's the world you wish to live, then great. If not, I suggest you open your mind a bit, expand your thinking, and at least consider what the other side has to say.


"Then, what happens is government law enforcement fails, because we're human and we all make mistakes - national law enforcement may not be present, local law enforcement may be corrupt or incompetent, or hundreds of other reasons failure could take place."

Then there's anarcho-tyranny, where in a riff on the old theme of the upper and lower class uniting against the middle, the ruling class uses withdrawal of police resources against geographically distinct enemies. I've been told this has been done in D.C., which like NYC essentially forbids legal gun ownership (although when I was living Inside the Beltway, I noticed D.C. police and juries were rather sympathetic to genuine self-defense shootings).

I've observed this in the U.K. during Blair's regime, where rural areas were stripped of ... 2/3rds of their police, if I remember, and some suburbs that voted "incorrectly" were also said to have suffered, but it was less clear cut.

So this goes way beyond "When seconds count, the police are minutes away" and societal/governmental breakdown.


Brazil doesn't have a "strong (sometimes authoritarian) central government" and individuals certainly do not have "few rights".


Maybe not as much as in the past, but they certainly have far fewer freedoms than Americans enjoy, including the right to own a gun to defend yourself. I was just reading the other day that entrepreneurs are afraid to start businesses here because there are so many taxes and fees that apply to new businesses, that business owners don't know what fees and taxes are legit and what are scams from criminals taking advantage of their naivety. Sounds like a great way for a country to help all of its citizens achieve their full potential.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/brazils-leader-fig...


Your bias is really showing. Brazilians don't have far fewer freedoms than Americans, in fact I'd say some of the freedoms brazilians enjoy are far more important than those in the US.

That doesn't mean Brazil is perfect, it's certainly not. It's a country with a lot of problems, but to say it is authoritarian is just straight-up false.

This is just a small list, there are many more examples if you bother to look for them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Snowden

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Security_Agency

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenn_Greenwald

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_the_Unite...


That's why the U.S. system is split into three branches.

Also, your use of the term "the State" is ambiguous. The State could mean a system of laws with law enforcement and dispute resolution. People believe in a system of laws - fight for it, even.

You have to remember: the state is a technology. It was developed by our ancestors to solve certain problems. It's not a panacea that solves every problem and I, frankly, only know straw men that think otherwise.


Most people probably don't believe that the state can solve every problem, but a large portion of people do believe that the state (and even only the state) can solve certain extremely important problems, like building infrastructure, producing a legal system, and producing a monetary system and economy.


The further into the past a decision regarding the State solving a problem for a society was made, the more its citizens today assume that decision was the best option and the private sector failed. This assumption is often based on the fact that there are no, or very few, competing alternatives left to solve that problem.

The reason there are very few remaining alternatives is largely because (in most systems of government today) the State has taken tax dollars from the private sector's solutions, thus starving them of resources, to fund it's own competing solution. So, the State is taking resources from it's competitors and then provide an alternative (normally at subsidized prices), which makes it's competitor's market share smaller and also sets pricing at unsustainable levels. There is only one outcome, ever, to this type of arrangement, regardless of whether or not the State actually offered the best solution to its citizens.


> The reason there are very few remaining alternatives is largely because (in most systems of government today) the State has taken tax dollars from the private sector's solutions, thus starving them of resources, to fund it's own competing solution.

I find this very doubtful indeed. The state by and large spends money on things the private sector has no interest in, such as welfare systems; I fail to see how this starves/steals from private sector solutions (no one makes money by supporting old people; no one makes money providing medical help for the poor; no one makes money by polluting less; no one makes money off going to the moon, though lots of people make money off the research that comes from it, etc.)


I don't have time right now to dig up data on it because I have to get going, but from a financial efficiency point of view, donating directly to private organizations that perform welfare services is an order of magnitude more effective than letting the State tax you and then redistribute your money to welfare services. The issue is the way our tax system is designed right now, it makes more sense for private individuals to keep their money until the government takes it by force to give to those in need, than for those individuals to contribute directly.


Rich people don't get rich by giving away money. I've heard plenty of stories about private non-profits that spend significant percentages of their take on administrative costs and similar. Not to say they're all like that; but then, neither is the government.

http://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/admin.html

2% or less admin costs looks pretty good. A universal basic income system would be better, but I'd be interested to see some private charities that do better than this.


There are plenty of historical examples where a state had to (and did) use force to prevent private individuals or organizations from offering certain services.


I'm responding to a sibling comment:

> the private sector has no interest in, such as welfare systems

Absolutely false. Children take care of their parents, families take care of each other, friends offer housing and food to their friends. At best you can argue that the private sector has stepped back to the extent the state has stepped in.


Every phrase you wrote has an implicit conditional in it:

> Children may take care of their parents, families may take care of each other, friends might offer housing and food to their friends.

At least one theoretical advantage to the state system that rarely gets talked about is that while its assistance also has the same conditionals, at least in principle, the conditionals are dependent on objective criteria. The state of your relationship to friends and family is immaterial; you don't have to accept terms imposed by religious charities or other organizations that will attach moralistic strings.


Sure, but a government also only may take care of people as well.


I disagree that a significant portion of people think that. I think most reasoning goes like this: we have to form an organization to accomplish x, there's already an organization doing y, maybe it makes sense for it to do x too rather than make a whole new organization.


>>maybe it makes sense for it to do x too rather than make a whole new organization.

For one, by having multiple private sector organizations competing to solve a problem, you spread the wealth around society more evenly than if the government were the only one doing x.

Second, new ideas and better ways to do x can come from anywhere. By having only one organization doing x, you have to convince the person in charge of organization doing x to change how they do x in order to do x in the better way. If you have multiple, competing organizations trying to do x, the one who decides to do x in a better way gets rewarded by serving more customers and making more money.

Third, if you only have one organization doing x, when that organization fails to do x, then everyone who depends on x gets screwed. By having more organizations doing x, if one fails, there are always others to serve customers who depend on x.


I think I've become your straw man. I was not advocating. I was explaining why I think org y ends up doing x too when it's already been decided an org needs to be formed to solve a problem that the market is not or cannot solve.


Understood, and agree that when it makes sense to do so, it should be done, in the private sector - e.g., Amazon offering cloud services on the back of their excess server capacity. The difference between the private sector doing this and government though lies in what happens when failure occurs. That's what I want others to understand.


I think everyone agrees that the private sector should do everything it can. It's a spectrum. Most problems the market can solve just fine. Some problems it cannot without the power of taxation (no free riding). The cut off line is hotly debated. Arguably the line shifts with technological advances.


> the state is a technology. It was developed by our ancestors to solve certain problems.

More like a compromise between thugs. It solves problems only for those with the leverage to negotiate.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magna_Carta


Right but that's still a technology. It's designed and created by man.


Well, yeah, you could say that, but it's just a word, it explains nothing. Golem is a technology too, designed and created by man, maybe you've heard tales about that thing and remember what usually happens to its creator. Telling people that government (or "democracy", or whatever this thing is called in propaganda textbooks) is "just a technology" today is just some mantra to make listener feel safe and relaxed, to make him feel he is in control, while he clearly isn't.


It's not a mantra. It's a defined word that contains no judgment of the particular technology.

I think of it much along the lines of Kevin Kelly's "What Technology Wants" and his "Technium". Technology is an extension of evolution. A constitution is as much a technology as the alphabet or an iPhone. All have positives and negatives.


> If someone tells you your mother or father could potentially steal from you because their name is tied to your bank account, how does that make you feel? Do you feel like this person is right, or you do get defensive and say that could never possibly happen? Most defend their parents and their parents' trustworthiness. The same goes for their view of the State.

We hear about child celebrities getting cheated out of their income by their parents. We know this can happen but I guess we assume they are exception rather than the norm?


Of course it can happen, but think about YOUR own gut reaction if someone said this about YOUR parents. Unless you had an extremely traumatic childhood or are estranged from your parents, I'm guessing your response is "Not possible." It's a similar reaction to people's own governments (I guess you could call this Nationalism?). The problem is worse when you identify as an "R" or "D" and the same letter you identify as is in the White House (or whatever head of government position for your country). Paul Graham wrote an essay about this at one point, I believe.


I think you explained it perfectly. I think we can carry the analogy a bit further. Even with my best interest at heart, my parents will do what they think is best for me and will nudge and push me towards what they think I need to do.

So even assuming that the powers that be have our best interests in mind, they are still people and are prone to make false assumptions about what's best for us.

Are you talking about this essay? http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html


Actually is was this one: http://www.paulgraham.com/identity.html

And to further your point, I want to see the good in people and believe that those who hold power in positions in the State want to do good, and will do what they think is best, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is. The problem is when the State fails, whether it is because of incompetence, misunderstanding, misguided intentions, or true intent to do harm, those who are dependent upon the state are the ones who suffer.


I don't know many people who unconditionally trust both of their parents, actually.


Very true. Propaganda was so successful that even when you rationally know States are bad, your heart tends to give them the benefits of the doubt. Like "they did that in the past, but we're more civilized now", "our president is such a nice guy, he wouldn't do anything evil - he said it won't happen again", "it happens in other country, but mine is better".


I found this post from a few months back particularly thought-provoking: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2014/12/03/eric_garner...


Oh come on, not even socialists believe the State can do no wrong. The public are more cynical than you take them to be.


Not cynical enough (in the us I mean).

They mostly believe the state is incompetent, or that at worse politicians can steal money or favor their buddies, etc. Doesn't go as far as to question issues of democracy, abuse, etc.


My anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise. Many have no trust of the government or those supplying the politicians their campaign funds. These conversations are simply kept quite and not generally found on mainstream media outlets.


Clearly not cynical enough to want policies that protect themselves from the dangers of the State.


> For the average person, they've grown up in a world where they've learned through school, the media, their parents, and 95% of other sources of knowledge about this world that the State (in an abstract form, not with an R, D, or other political party affiliation tied to it because of those currently in power) is a protector, friend, keeper of order, etc. To attack or criticize the State (in abstract terms) and say that it could potentially abuse it's power, is like saying that your parents or some other loved one could potentially betray you.

This is cringeworthy. I knew HN had a Ron Paul bent, but has it been completely overtaken by 15 year olds?

Go ask ANYONE, your cashier, your hairdresser, or the random joe working on your car -- the standard line of thinking isn't that the government is some nice friend and protector. The standard line of thinking is that government is dysfunctional and politicians are corrupt. You people pick up a copy of 1984 and suddenly you're all mini-orwells running around spewing your "insights" to whoever will stand around long enough to pretend they care.

> If someone tells you your mother or father could potentially steal from you because their name is tied to your bank account, how does that make you feel? Do you feel like this person is right, or you do get defensive and say that could never possibly happen? Most defend their parents and their parents' trustworthiness. The same goes for their view of the State.

Oh, wise sage, please enlighten us with more of your wisdom. Tell us the story of the bunny going to the store to buy milk this time!


> The standard line of thinking is that government is dysfunctional and politicians are corrupt.

That may be the standard response you get, but doesn't mean that is what they think. I'm sure that if you asked them how their day was going, you'd get a "fine" - which doesn't mean anything either. It makes more sense to look at actions than words: people still call the police if they get shorted a chicken nugget. Mothers still call the police to scare their rebellious teenagers straight. People still vote. So it is more likely that people are unhappy with the present government, but if they could just get their guy in office - then everything would be great. Give us a kindly king :)


Calling upon government services and voting isn't a show of faith in the government, it's just a matter of practicality. Do I fundamentally have faith in the police to protect people's safety instead of jeopardizing it? No, because they murder people all the time and get away with it. But I'm still going to file a police report when my laptop gets stolen because that's the only way I can make an insurance claim for it.

As for voting, I'm to the point where I just vote on ballot measures and leave the actual races for elected positions blank, unless there's a socialist running in which case I vote against them.


> Calling upon government services and voting isn't a show of faith in the government, it's just a matter of practicality.

Intelligent people can disagree on the ideal way to transition from our present system to a more preferable solution - but your statement isn't absolutely true. Voting does demonstrate a faith in the government. That faith may only be that the present system allows for a transition through the mechanism of majority rule, but it is faith none the less. As far as police interactions, I chose my examples carefully - they demonstrate a belief in the state beyond practical needs such as insurance claims.


While I do tend to agree with you, this is a content-free comment; it has no purpose but to mock the parent commenter. When commenting, please keep things civil and constructive.


I do try to usually, but really, what more of substance could I have said? I'm starting to question whether being civil really is the proper response when you hear something that violates your views so strongly. Anyway, I appreciate your response.


Thank you I'm tired of this constant distorted view its really sad considering hackernews is built around intelligent conversations.


I think I proved my point here.


Because it resonates with everyone. Personal moments, privacy, intimacy ... these are things everyone understands, everyone can see how it might impact them.

Talk about "misuse of power" and you lose the attention of the very people you are trying to convince. It might just be the trivialities (and peoples desire to protect themselves from them) that create more fury and action that talking about the real issues.

I think it is smart of Snowden to take the tact that will resonate with the most people. It might be a sideshow, but it is a useful sideshow that might move the ball forward on the big issues.


Right. The civil rights movement in the U.S. also dealt with oppression and tyranny, but many of the actual protests revolved around bus seats and the ability to buy lunch.


Really great point. Wish it has occurred to me.


It's not that you are wrong, it's that you are not completely correct.

Yes, everything you said about the state was correct -- but, because digital information is so free and open, you are no longer making a choice about what the government should know or not, you're making the choice about what the entire universe should know.

So sure, sign me up for the lessons we can draw from history. But we're creating something even more monstrous than that, if such a thing were possible. We're creating (or trying to create) a 4 billion person clan, where everybody knows everything.

That's whacked in a way far beyond just destroying our lives and our children's lives. It's species-threatening. We have evolved to operate in small clans that compete for resources. There are a plethora of drawbacks to such a social structure, but that's who we are as a species. If nothing else, it gives us resilience: 99% of clans can make some evolutionary mistake, and as long as 1% does not, the species survives.

Now we are all throwing in together, betting that some huge clan of billions that's never been tried before will be able to not make any evolutionary mistakes at all. It is unlikely beyond reason to believe this would be the case.


Your argument doesn't follow. There is a large difference between removing secrets at large and cooperating at large. In practice we are seeing plenty of dividing lines.


I think it's easier to try to protect the way they we communicate than trying to over throw the government. Plus, something like 60%+ in the U.S. believe Snowden is a traitor. In other words, people in the U.S. trust their government.

I do agree with you though. I recently had my family watch United Stats of Secrets a PBS Frontline episode on Netflix[1]. It was honestly the best description of the Snowden leaks I have seen, it explains everything better than I had expected.

What was most interesting/disturbing was the NSA director with a big smirk on his face explaining how he manipulated congress.

It definitely changed my families view of Snowden from "traitor" to "wow, I don't know if he is a hero, but he's no traitor." Over time, this is how public sentiment can alter to believing our government is tyrannical, but right now it's not enough.

[1] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/united-states-of-sec...


Can you please provide a reference were 60% of the people believe Snowden is a traitor? I would be very suspect of any of those polls as they have the ability to now select a group of people who will generally provide the answers they are looking for. So please be very wary of any "poll" unless you are certain of the selection criteria and method of polling. Otherwise it is most likely just propaganda.


As of 2014 it was closer to a 50-50 split:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/30/edward-snowden-poll...


I think 60% is low actually.


...the problem is clearly about tyranny, dictatorship and misuse of power?

Every government devolves to this so it's unavoidable/unchangeable without widespread revolution. If the battle can't be won in a widespread fashion it has to be done locally. A person can encrypt and hide their own data, but they can't single-handledly end tyranny.


"Societies exist under three forms sufficiently distinguishable. 1. Without government, as among our Indians. 2. Under governments wherein the will of every one has a just influence, as is the case in England in a slight degree, and in our states in a great one. 3. Under governments of force: as is the case in all other monarchies and in most of the other republics. To have an idea of the curse of existence under these last, they must be seen. It is a government of wolves over sheep. It is a problem, not clear in my mind, that the 1st. condition is not the best. But I believe it to be inconsistent with any great degree of population. The second state has a great deal of good in it. The mass of mankind under that enjoys a precious degree of liberty and happiness. It has it’s evils too: the principal of which is the turbulence to which it is subject. But weigh this against the oppressions of monarchy, and it becomes nothing. Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem. Even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs. I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.

Thomas Jefferson


Since the dawn of history the "state" was always the biggest threat to the safety of it's "citizens", not external aggression.

The inverse is also generally true. The largest existential threat to the USA as a political entity is another civil war. It is currently the best protected country against invasion in history.


You would basically be demanding that people whom have power relinquish it. This has historically been hard to do. Instead, cleverly, you put external pressure from the masses to force the issue.

The inverse is claiming child porn or terrorism to get the masses to give up privacy rights when they normally would be reluctant.


> We need to stay safe from our own state, that is why we must not give up our privacy, not because of some silly naked pictures on your phone.

Gee, you seem to be suggesting that here in the US we should adopt something like:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Ah, heck, how would the US ever adopt such a thing?

And, even if we did, could we follow it?

More along the same lines might be:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Such a policy would seem to guarantee the ability to gather on the Mall in DC to say things about the US involvement in Viet Nam, the Balkans, Iraq, Syria, etc.

For more, how about a policy such as:

"The Congress shall have Power To

...

declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;"

So, from this, the President could not declare war? Do we have freedom of speech to ask this question"?

Ah, there's the old thought, to be strong, both muscles and constitutional rights need exercise!

> naked pictures on your phone

"Ah we got trouble, right here in River City. Trouble starts with a T, and that rhymes with a P, and that stands for" pictures and phone and naked pictures on a phone! "Oh we got trouble!".

Nice speech.

Good post.


Governments have long had the ability to surveil activists and cultural figures. And activists have long understood this. Heck, Malcolm X joked about government hirelings back in 1964: "Brothers and sisters, friends and enemies: I just can't believe everyone in here is a friend, and I don't want to leave anybody out."

Looking around, it seems to be that most people are and have been indifferent to issues of peace and social justice most of the time. They do care about naked picture on their phone. Given that activists have been able to work despite extensive surveillance, why would people whose issue is privacy focus on something that doesn't matter to most people when they can talk about things that many people do care about?


>Since the dawn of history the "state" was always the biggest threat to the safety of it's "citizens", not external aggression.

Yeah, but Americans, after the sixties, do not understand politics at that level, and even believe that the US is the be all end all of states, and the "moral power" of the world, and such BS.


I'm not sure what the US government is complaining about. If the baseband has direct memory access, they should be able to grab any cryptographic key off the phones without Apple or the user ever noticing, that is unless Apple has been getting stroppy lately about who gets to talk on their PCI bus.

As for Apple doing the right thing, even if they manage to keep the government out of people's business today, they still hold the key to the universal back door and might give it away tomorrow. Apple certainly has the resources to develop a completely liberated phone, but NeXT and post-merger Apple has always been incredibly hostile to software freedom, and this speech doesn't change any of that.

I don't think they are afraid that they won't be able to spy on people, but they are worried about maintaining the public opinion that privacy is for creeps and terrorists. But another interesting effect of closing every back door but the baseband is that there will likely be a power struggle within the intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Only the highest ranking officers will be able to push malicious firmware updates, regular police will have no choice but to stick with traditional police work.


> they still hold the key to the universal back door and might give it away tomorrow

Care to elaborate? Do you mean assumption that they can have it if they want to, or is there some information about it?


Your encrypted iMessages is one iOS update from being non-encrypted. As far as I can tell.


And one iOS update from a TLS implementation with low entropy in key generation, allowing the NSA to decrypt all traffic with minimal computational effort.

As is Windows, Linux, all open source projects, and all proprietary projects.

All software is one update away from completely changing it's purpose, so I think your point is far more general than just Apple's messaging app.


It would be nice if the updates came from a source that wasn't directly under the thumb of the US government as all commercial businesses are, and wasn't amoral and beholden to profit motive. Not having to worry about intentional subterfuge would free up my time to worry about implementation flaws.


While you can certainly bribe, coerce or trick an upstream maintainer to accept a malicious patch, there's still a whole network of downstream maintainers that all want to have their say, and there's usually ample time for the community to form their own opinions about what's going on, even if that sometimes leads to a lot of silly polemics.

I don't know of any free operating system that forces updates, and even if Apple doesn't they still have excellent means to coerce users to accept those updates by withholding all their centralized services. Which is precisely what Sony already did with the PlayStation 3 update in 2010.

This is where the Affero GPL comes in. If the users of one service find the terms and conditions to be onerous, they can simply launch a replacement service using the same software on the same day, preferably without breaking a sweat.


I've been happy to see (and participate in) a recent discussion on software update transparency, which I think could change this situation someday -- assuming software users and publishers have enough interest in reducing the publishers' power.

Some publishers understand that a reason to try to do this is to be less vulnerable to coercion, and also to be seen to be less vulnerable to coercion -- like when distributing software to foreigners who think that your local government might try to force you to backdoor it. A recent example I heard along these lines was a Chinese vendor who was interested in pursuing a means to help customers confirm that the software updates they got hadn't been backdoored at the behest of the Chinese government. Technology distributors who are based in other countries might face similar concerns.


I recently taught a small module on cryptography to some 13 year olds.

In one lesson, I asked them to write down what they thought of companies being forced to weaken encryption.

This was a very typical response from the group.

"I think that encryption should still be allowed because I should have some privacy in my life and everyone else can. No one wants to be watched, stalked, etc. just because a couple of criminals may be able to start a (rare) terrorist attack, there should be other ways to stop them apart from making everyone elses life uncomfortable. You might aswell have no passwords for any website, it's basically the same thing."

If kids get it, I fail to see why politicians don't.


The problem with that is that when asking kids you get sunshine. I mean, I have an opinion on this, but that's beside the point.

You ask kids, what do we do about global warming --stop polluting the atmosphere!

Yes obvious, it's just that things aren't as simple as that.


I think most things actually are as simple as that. They're just made unduly complex because the obvious solutions to these problems don't align with the ulterior motives and sinister agendas that are often involved in politics:

You want to secure people's right to privacy? Defund the NSA and use the money for something that's actually useful (like leaving it to the tax payers to spend as they please).

You want to uphold human rights? Stop condoning human rights violations. Close down Guantanamo today, explicitly condemn torture and prosecute those who were responsible for acts of torture in the past.

You want to counter terrorism? Stop getting politcally or militarily involved in other countries' affairs. Instead, trade with people. Foster economic and cultural exchange. Educate people. Now, this is a long-term one because it obviously won't do away with terrorism instantly but it'd be a first step in the right direction.

You want to solve the perpetual financial crises? Simply allow bankrupt banks to ... well ... file for bankruptcy instead of donating them tax payer's money.

You want to do something against global warming? Stop subsidizing fossil fuel companies. Make more use of the abundant solar energy available in the desert regions of the planet. Admittedly, this will be expensive but given the huge amount of money that's wasted annually in first world countries it's not impossible either.


I adore the purists' positions and if ever we have a government or president that will act with pure intention they will have my full support. Nonetheless without accounting for politician's and their supporter's ulterior motives they will never succeed.

In an alternate universe where you BjoernKW was emperor of the United States and you pursued domestic policies that aimed to act purely in the interests of the people, without considering of the ambitions of less noble, less than two hundred years later you might be labeled by historians as a "well meaning but ineffective man".

You want the people to be free from the hold of Opium? Ban it, burn it and banish the smugglers from your shores.

"He issued many edicts against opium in the 1820s and 1830s, which were carried out by Commissioner Lin Zexu. Lin Zexu's effort to halt the spread of opium in China led directly to the First Opium War. With the development of the Opium War, Lin was made a scapegoat and the Daoguang emperor removed Lin's authority and banished him to Yili. Meanwhile in the Himalayas, the Sikh Empire attempted an occupation of Tibet but was defeated in the Sino-Sikh war (1841–1842). On the coasts, technologically and militarily inferior to the European powers, China lost the war and surrendered Hong Kong by way of the Treaty of Nanking in August 1842."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daoguang_Emperor.


I think lots of people with good intentions fail to give the problem of the commons proper weight.

While you may do good and provide a better way, by doing all things good and proper, you will get trounced and relegated to irrelevance.

We can only move forward if we get the majority to go along. One can't unilaterally pull away, you'll be at a severe competitive disadvantage, your leverage gets reduced, your idealism forgotten and overwhelmed by those who take the opportunity offered by your benevolence.

That's why, i believe, the only, but frustratingly slow way to go, is to slowly and gradually gather consensus and momentum and get things done, in the end.

Falling on the sword serves the self but does not serve society at large someone with less morals will come in and swoop up the opportunity, sadly.


Actually, things are exactly that simple.

Look at how the WWII generation responded to the need for behavior change in order to supply raw materials and labor for the war effort. If our generation cared about the environment as much as they cared about winning WWII then we could make similar sacrifices, pay a little extra for fuel, pay a little extra for solar infrastructure, change our diets to be more sustainable, and be well on the way to reversing damage to our environment.


It is in fact not that simple. To make a noticeable difference in terms of global climate change, americans would have to do much more than "pay a little extra". The entire commercial shipping network relies on carbon fuels. That's land, sea and air. The power grid and utility structure in most communities is destructive to the environment in some way. Changing all of that would require an investment in R&D and social re-organization equivalent to entirety of ten WWIIs. It's understandable that the majority of citizens wouldn't want to pay that cost. There's sacrifice, and then there's masochism. Not to mention that China and India aren't going to give up their chance at a western energy guzzling quality of life just because we do.

The idealism of children is great and all, but there's a reason that we don't let 10 year olds make major policy decisions. The naivete of youth is a very powerful thing that is responsible for some of our greatest innovations and new ideas. But it just doesn't play well with political decisions. Children don't understand the issues around encryption any more than they understand how to fix the environment. All we can do is invest in education and culture in the hope that they'll be prepared to tackle these issues when they grow up.


Children understand the issue of avoiding climate change very well. They just don't understand yet that grown ups don't care about climate change, despite what they say.

Fixing climate change really is easy; it's just that almost every single person in the world cares more about their personal comfort right now than about their future.

People say things like "Climate change is terrible", but then they choose not to do anything about it. Most people could probably halve their energy costs with little effort (and enjoy immediate cost savings), but they choose not to.

It's not the children who are stupid, it's the grown ups who are.


I would be happy to avoid flying if I felt it would make a difference. At the moment though, I will inconvenience myself, while our politicians decide to build another airport. My inconvenience will have had zero effect.


Maybe that's the underlying cause. We can immediately see the inconvenience (taking the train is more expensive and takes longer than a plane), but we can't visualize the consequences (what does releasing 5kg of CO2 into the atmosphere mean?).

Its a similar issue with fitness/personal health. I really want to drink this beer now, but I don't see how my drinking will cause diabetes 30 years down the road.

We justify actions by their individually negligible marginal cost, but we fail to see the compound cost in a lifetime.


A mix-up I often see in these discussions is the difference between "hard" and "takes effort". People say all the time "it's not as simple as kids/you/... think" in the sense of "it's hard" when it is really "it would take a big effort", e.g. Flying to another star system in one lifetime? Hard. You have to take some laws of physics (or rather our understanding of them) head-on. Solving humanities part of the climate change problem? That will take a really big effort convincing everyone to be part of it, then doing all the necessary changes on infrastructure and so on, but it is not hard. The fundamental problems are solved, no R&D necessary, just doing. (R&D and new solutions could make it possible to do the job with less effort, but they are not strictly necessary)


To significantly halt climate change using today's technology would cause misery on a scale unprecedented in human history.

To switch from fossil fuels to current solar energy would require a massive amount of land use. A huge portion of the world would have to be covered with solar cells to match the output from fossil fuelds. Do you know what that would do to real estate prices? Buildings that are horizontal would have to become vertical, and that money has to come from somewhere. Rents would double. Companies would have to offset the costs and some people would get fired, and most would have their wages or benefits frozen.

The trucks, ships and planes that pollute by shipping goods would have to be converted to today's electric engines. That would increase the cost of everything that everyone buys by 15-20%. From a book on amazon to a pair of jeans from the now 10 story shopping mall. Everyone would have to get their personal vehicles refitted or buy new ones, incurring even more costs. Every business would see its margins shrink further, driving wages down even more.

Producing and transporting meat is one of the largest contributors to climate change. The price of a hamburger at McDonalds would have to go from $2 to $20. Children need protein while in their developmental years, but it would become almost impossible for most families to afford. An entire generation raised on soy paste.

Globally, everyone would feel extreme financial pressure as the businesses they worked for AND their customers all make less money while paying more for everything they consume. There would be riots and revolutions as people took to the streets to feed their starving families. Endless foreign and civil wars, immeasurable suffering and loss of life. And for what? For what? Something that might or might not happen 100 years from now?

As adults, it's our job to keep this horrible future from unfolding. The responsible thing to do is invest in education and infrastructure, slowly and carefully, to keep those kids writing essays from growing up in a terrible world. That's why we're the adults, because we understand the difference between fantasy and reality, what's possible and what's practical.

If history has taught one lesson, it's "Never underestimate the pace of technological change." There have been Malthusian predictions before and there will be again. They never come true because technology solves problems in ways that we can't anticipate. It's our job to keep the world running while we wait patiently for a technological solution to climate change to present itself. We can't imagine what it will be today, but it will happen sooner than we think. Progress will take us to other star systems, too. Eventually.


I think we have to agree to disagree here as I share neither your pessimism that we need a "Great leap forward"-style program to stop climate change with our current technologies nor your optimism that science will solve all of our problems fast enough (see my answer to kybernetikos for more on that). Fast enough is the main point here. Yes, technology will solve all of our problems in the long run, but that's not helpful if humanity doesn't exist long enough for that time to come.

What I can agree with: If we take your assumptions as given that using our current technology for the task leads to all the things you've described (massive use of land we could use for other things, sharp rent increases, sharp price increases on food, wage depression and so on) then your conclusions are certainly correct and we shouldn't think about doing any of that, because the immediate concerns are far more pressing than any of the "the future could be shitty. Or not."-problems. I just don't share them, so I think we have a fundamentally different set of "basic believes" which will always bring us to different conclusions in the end.

On the other hand I would certainly love to read a few of the sources which brought you to your conclusions on our current technology level and the consequences of using it to stop our part in climate change. I'm always open to changing my opinion if new facts warrant it.


Regarding land use, with current technology level we would do much better if we go nuclear - it's safe, clean and much, much more space-efficient.


Within my lifetime, inventions requiring new science have had a much better chance of changing the world than changes requiring solving social coordination problems.

The fact that so many startups are now "full stack" reflects the difficulty of solving even extremely simple social coordination problems.


That's a good point which reflects the prosperous times we live in. Looking back at history these times seem to be the exception rather than the rule. In the end I fear that we cannot hope that "science will solve all of our problems", because science by its very nature is "hard". There are no guarantees that things will work out and we could very well land again in a period of time where science hits only dead-ends for many years. In that case we'd either live without any progress or we invest effort into using the solutions we already have.


Either you don't really grasp just how much the WWII generation had to change their behavior or you have far too much faith in how much people care about the environment. Nobody is going to sign up for peacetime rationing.


>then we could make similar sacrifices, pay a little extra for fuel, pay a little extra for solar infrastructure, change our diets to be more sustainable

I haven't done the study, but I'd wager that those small price hikes would push the five most marginal percent currently able to afford rent into homelessness.

Things are never that simple. A person who presents anything as black and white either hasn't thought about it or is lying to you.


So... design your policy such that they don't affect the most poor (fund things by raising taxes on the wealthy, etc). It in fact is that simple, yet we lack the political will to make policy that disproportionately affects the wealthy.

That isn't because we can't, it's because our ideology ensures we won't.


Why should global warming taxes be also an instrument to rebalance wealth? That's exactly what discredits them when I push for them as a debate: The middle class feel very insecure about "redistribution".


The OP has responded to the problem of "push[ing] the five most marginal percent [..] into homelessness". Your blowing his modest proposal out of proportion when talking about rebalancing wealth. He only suggested to design the policy in a way that prevents the poorest to become homeless.


Anything that moves money around, moves money around. Asking for a tax that doesn't rebalance wealth one way or another, is to ask for no taxes.


Yes that's right. IMO a climate change tax on fossil fuels should distribute the proceeds evenly amongst everyone in the country.


Then let them feel secure. Let's tax only the super-rich. Perhaps a wealth tax on billionaires.


In fairness, he talked in terms of societal choices - and having the five most marginal percent be that close to the edge is also very much a choice.


I think it's really a long, grueling process of dialogue, explanation of practicals, co-operation of all possible interests, and work. It's a systemic change kind of thing, I think. That kind of stuff isn't easy, and if one is aiming for easiness and some approximation of perfection, it requires a lot of friction between global and local changes.


Things are always that simple. Humans makes things artificially more difficult for wealth, power, and control. If you put a back door in encryption, the bad guys will stop using that encryption. All you manage to do is make the honest citizen less secure. Nothing changes this fact, and therefore nothing justifies backdoors in encryption. It really is that simple.


A lot of "it really is that simple" replies. Most big problems are simple to solve - if you only have one problem. Do we stop global warming, stop terrorism, stop government spying, stop poverty, stop high taxes, stop war, stop death from diseases, stop income inequality? Any one problem is simple to solve, but what's not simple is doing it without making other problems worse in the process.


Start with those problems hurting most people in the biggest ways, then go on until you either run out of problem solving capabilities or problems.


There are possible structures of problems and solutions in which this search strategy would get stuck in a local optimum -- if you agree that some solutions preclude others or make other problems worse.


I've seen what happens to people when they become "adults". They sit around and talk with the grown ups about really boring things like gossip. They stop playing tag. They start caring only about having relationships and stop caring about anything fun.

If they aren't having fun because they just sit around and talk about boring things, maybe they don't care about the world as much.


Actually fixing problems requires having and understanding relationships, and setting around and talking about boring things. Maybe that is why the adults I know having the most fun are the least political, because fixing problems is a slog and they want to have fun.


I'm in my mid 30s and still build forts out of cushions. I've heard about adulthood, but it sounds appalling.


As many others said, things are exactly that simple. Apart from not understanding that most of what adults say is bullshit, kids just don't understand coordination problems yet - that it's not the task which is hard, it's getting all the different people, each caring primarily about themselves, to unite for a common goal. That's why wars are effective - it's easy for everyone to share a common goal if the goal is to fight for survival, or rebuild things (facilitated by shared experience of suffering).


This is all framing. If you had first asked if the police should be able to catch the bad guys, and then if the crypto should prevent bad guys from being caught, you'd get a different answer.

Kids are kinda nuts anyway, I definitely wouldn't let one run my life. :-)


It's worth remembering that Apple have stated that "conversations which take place over iMessage and FaceTime are protected by end-to-end encryption so no one but the sender and receiver can see or read them. Apple cannot decrypt that data."[1]

I suspect that Cook is anticipating legislation that would require that Apple re-engineer its services to support "lawful" interception of the content of messages/conversations, but is hoping that adopting a aggressive stance now will result in a compromise end state whereby interception must happen proactively and by exception (and within a clear legal framework - e.g. authorised by a warrant or court order) as opposed to a mass surveillance regime where everything is hoovered up (i.e. intercepted and stored).

1: https://www.apple.com/apples-commitment-to-customer-privacy/


This.

A few weeks ago Obama came in on the side of David Cameron and the FBI in support of outlawing strong encryption: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2015/01/16/obama-sides-with-came...

After yesterday's event he appeared to back off of that position: http://recode.net/2015/02/13/obama-theres-no-scenario-in-whi...

Should be interesting to see how it all plays out - its an odd situation when we're turning to Apple, Google and Facebook to defend our information privacy.


id suspect that is the case pity that the other invited tech leaders didn't go - but Tim always struck me that he understands politics in a way Larry Sergei, Eric and Zuckerberg just don't get


The business model of Facebook and Google is about getting to know as much as possible about you. Apple makes most money without your data.


Are iMessages automatically synced to iCloud on iOS? In that case Apple can see the copies of the messages, from most people.

As for Facetime, I think only the voice calls are end-to-end, not the video chats as well.


Wrong (from what's known about iMessage). All devices have a distinct history of messages - http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/27/apple-explains-exactly-how-...

Apple says FaceTime messages are end-to-end encrypted https://www.apple.com/privacy/privacy-built-in/


This is likely a jab at Obama, since Tim Cook is probably sick of all the NSA and FBI spooks plugging black boxes into his servers, not to mention how it's illegal for him to even complain about it publicly. The scary thing is that I'm no longer a bonafide paranoiac for expressing an opinion like this. I'm probably right.


This is certainly a jab at Obama, who came to Silicon Valley today to tell us all that the government can "keep us safe" if we just let them take our personal data from private companies. Obama has been pushing a plan for "cybersecurity" that involves expanding the NSA spying program and making legal many of the things Edward Snowden revealed them to be doing apparently illegally.

I'm politically liberal and voted for Obama twice but the man is fucking lying to us about cyber security. The real solutions to security involve encryption and what Obama is suggesting is that they can protect us by monitoring more.

Tim Cook is calling him out as a liar without expressly saying it. I wish he would. We need more prominent people to call attention to how much we are being lied to, because too many people buy the BS as truth.


I would be careful about calling policy disagreements "lies".

Keep in mind Bill Clinton and his admin did plenty of horrible stuff as well (communications decency act, DMCA, the clipper and v-chip shenanigans, high strength crypto as a munition, the hounding of Phil Zimmerman and PGP, operation sundevil, etc.

My point is that digital privacy is not a "liberal" or "conservative" issue, it's a new concern that seems to have adherents across the political spectrum. Both democrats and republicans have been strong supporters of government surveillance and stomping on digital privacy rights. There is no mainstream political party taking up the privacy mantra yet en large because the people of the USA apparently don't want it.

It's our job to change that, but that requires changing people's minds that their privacy is worth risking a successful terrorist attack (which is how everyone in the mainstream US perceives the trade off).


Thanks for those examples from Clinton Era, I was 15 when he left office so I know only a little of his legacy.

I am hard on Obama on cybersecurity because, after watching Citizen Four and countless CCC talks with Jacob Appelbaum et al, I just don't believe he is unaware of the damage to security his proposals will make. I suppose he could genuinely believe that more state intervention in our digital lives is ultimately the right call for our security, but I feel like the president would be informed enough to know better. But perhaps he is just in a bubble that makes it hard to see how harmful their security measures are.

Either way I agree that the issue is a citizen's issue and not a liberal or conservative one. Both parties have been failing to look our for their constituents and I feel like a true people's progressive party would be an important force to disrupt that pattern.

I guess I should be careful about accusing people of lying however, as it could derail my message when the specifics of lie vs bad idea are really not at issue. Thanks for the comment.


> This is likely a jab at Obama

I'm pretty sure its just another indirect jab at Google.


To explain further, for the downvoters, Apple is trying to position itself as "the company that safeguards your privacy (for those that can afford it)" because its their key point of differentiation with Google.

Its very unlikely that Tim Cook would make a statement like this unless it is in line with their marketing message.


Tim Cook just earned a lot of respect today.


How? Apple does not care about privacy. If they did, they would not possess the keys to decrypt anything, even stuff stored on their servers.

I am sure apple cares about privacy from government, but they don't seem to care about privacy of their users from them.


even Schneier thinks they do a decent job: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/04/apples_imessa...


If you read the details of schneier's post , he basically says "we don't know".


Jesus Christ, unless you etch your own chips and build a computer from scratch, the answer is always "we don't know".

There might be a backdoor in the cpu you buy, or in the baseband, or in a driver, or in an open source component that you didn't audit, or in your compiler, or even in your USB stick. You always need to trust somebody.


Pragmatism tells me it's easier to trust my cpu than it is to trust someone's server in the other side of the planet.


>> "The Apple boss, who last year publicly acknowledged he is gay, added that “history has shown us that sacrificing our right to privacy can have dire consequences”

Why would this detail possibly be relevant to the point Tim Cook was making?


In the (democratic) Weimar Republic, the authorities collected "pink lists" naming homosexuals. Homosexuality was technically illegal, but not prosecuted, and in fact, the Weimar Republic was known for its tolerance.

When the Nazis came to power, they used those previously obtained lists to round up the homosexuals and send them to death camps. A lesson that privacy matters even if you think your current government and/or its use of data is benign.

http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005261


This is a really key point. Obama and Cameron are telling us that it's ok to let them snoop on all our private communications because we can trust them and they can protect us. Even if we can trust them, they can't protect us. Also, who knows about the next president of the USA, or the next UK Prime Minister? What if we get another Nixon or worse? These things have happened and will happen again.

Beyond that, by saying it's ok for governments to snoop on private communications, it's normalising that same behaviour by China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc, etc. It's not good enough to say that it's alright for the West to do it because they are good guys and not ok for despotic regimes to do it because they are bad guys. It's a matter of principle that it's wrong for everyone to do it.

That is the only way to set a standard and hold every government to it. We should figure out what line in terms of privacy and respect for personal rights we would like China, Russia, etc to abide by. It's only ok for our governments to do things that we would accept as being legitimate for those governments to do. That is the only way to normalise respect for the individual and protect our personal freedoms in the long term.


Related: Why were the Nazis so efficient at rounding up and murdering Jewish people? Because the 1933 Census asked if you were Jewish, and IBM sold them (mechanical) data processing systems.


If he were in certain other countries, his sexual orientation might result in death, or have other severe legal or social consequences.

Even in the United States, there is a social cost to being known to be gay. Arguably [in most communities] it's low enough that it's better than the alternative of trying to keep it a secret, but the cost still exists. Certain people will not want to be your friend or do business with you if they know you're gay. You may not care about those lost opportunities... you may have plenty of friends and business opportunities... but it still limits your options. In some small dogmatic communities even in socially liberal countries, you might be ostracized, and your only options are to keep it a secret or to start a new life somewhere else.

Privacy in the "cloud" means keeping information secret from people who you'd rather not have judging you based on that information. It could be a close-minded community, or health insurance companies, or even something relatively innocuous and minor like some interest of yours that would raise eyebrows even among your friends.


> If he were in certain other countries, his sexual orientation might result in death, or have other severe legal or social consequences.

Among those social consequences could be regular physical abuse, or even being beaten to death.

In the U.S., the cultural shift on this issue was so fast that it's easy to forget that we're not that far removed from Laramie, Wyoming and the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998 for being gay, or that LGBT individuals couldn't serve openly in the Armed Forces until 2011. [0][1]

Today that same state issues and recognizes gay marriages, and DADT is a fading memory. That's head-spinningly fast for a cultural and legal change of that magnitude.

Personally I think that this is one area where Tim Cook's sexual orientation probably influences his thinking, and in a very good way. He's smart enough to know that government access to Apple's data is more than enough for the government to build its own "pink lists" today.

Like Tim Cook, I believe we are not so close to the precipice that we can't use the normal political process to put a framework around our intelligence services that both safeguards privacy and protects our nation's interests.

I (contrary to prevailing opinion here), have great respect for our security agencies, and believe the men and women that staff them are mostly well-meaning public servants performing a valuable service.

But as we all know, this is not about today's government. It's about the unknown governments that will come to power in 10, 20, or 100 years, and in countless generations to come.

It's easy to design a government that you know will be staffed by decent men and women. But historically that is not an assumption upon which we can rely.

As James Madison said, our institutions should be designed to survive being "run by devils."

If I confront the issue directly: Do I feel our nation could survive as a free society if today's security apparatus was run by devils?

No. No, I do not.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Shepard

[1] http://www.nbcnews.com/id/43859711/ns/us_news-life/


What a well thought out opinion on why privacy matters.

Personally, I have a lot of trouble talking about privacy to my mother. She's firmly seated in the "I've got nothing to hide" camp.

I'm forwarding her this thread so she can see some differing opinions (that weren't written by me).


"I've got nothing to hide" is a straw men.

It's a fact that people who are being watched, or even who think they might be watched, behave different then those that think they are totally private [1]. So in order to discover who you are or how to deal with certain problems you encounter in life, you have to have an environment with the least amount of external influences possible. Having no prying eyes avoids self-censoring and conforming your thoughts or behavior to what you think that is expected by others. This way privacy is the matrix of diversity, new idea's and insights and a way to free ourselves from doctrines and repression.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panopticon



And TL;DR: "the banality of evil". Even if a majority really have nothing to hide, a large minority of innocents do have something to hide. To not cared for them is inhumane.


Cook also said

>> "“We still live in a world where all people are not treated equally. Too many people do not feel free to practice their religion or express their opinion or love who they choose,”


It's incredibly relevant.

For one thing, his speech included direct references to the importance of privacy for marginalized groups (including homosexuals), especially in places where it is been illegal.

Moreover, I personally think it's one of the reasons that I believe Cook (far more so than other technology people) has a credible commitment to privacy. He's a very private person himself (in fact, he only came out last year), and I think that personal preference for privacy shines through in how he's running Apple.


I think the author is possibly alluding to the fact that gay rights are frequently referenced as an historic example of how the ability to break the law is important to a society's ability to adjust it's cultural norms and make way for change. Sodomy was illegal until quite recently, but if that could have been enforced (as a dragnet allows), we might not be where we are today, because people couldn't test the limits of laws we came to view as unjust :)


He made a comment about people's lives being in danger if they are in the closet in regions where homosexuality is punishable and have no data privacy. Somewhat related.


I'm by no means disagreeing with the point others are making in response to your comment, but I do think that sentence could have been worded better. It's stated out of context and would have been a better fit had the author mentioned that next to Cook's quote regarding equality, rather than in the middle of the statement regarding privacy. I was equally confused when I first read it.


I think it's mainly about telling the readers who Tim Cook is. The name doesn't ring a bell for many, but when you refer to news about him, it's a bit easier to remember.


I agree. Seemed an odd, irrelevant comment to make. Maybe they were suggesting he didn't fit the stereotype of big-business, conservative ceos, in order to suggest his words were not just money-motivated? Even then, it's a big, poor taste stretch.


"We should not share the control we have over our consumers with the NSA!"


Apple, unlike other major tech companies, has a business model which is completely compatible with privacy. If anything, I suspect they would prefer a world where consumers demanded strict privacy and fewer online services.


Similarly, Microsoft's business model is (or at least largely was) compatible with privacy.


In that Case why is apple acting as the gate keeper for what I can or cant do with my phone?


What the hell does that have to do with privacy?


If you run the shop/walled garden that defines what you can put on your phone. Apple says you can be private just as long as you use our apps and obey our rules? That's corporate slavery


> If anything, I suspect they would prefer a world where consumers demanded strict privacy and fewer online services.

Because they are shit at building online services and excellent at selling people overpriced devices.

Oh and FWIW. Apple also operates iAd, a locked down ad program targeted at their customers specifically.


Bullshit. iOS devices have only one way to do wireless backups, and that's with the Apple cloud. Apple could decide that it only does wireless backups with a little home server that you put into your own home, but they decided against that.

Apple also could allow users to secure their cloud backups against anybody. But they decided they include mandatory key escrow by Apple itself. The mud puddle test proves that Apple and the NSA can access all your backup data.

How is that a business model "completely compatible with privacy"?


iOS lets you do backups wirelessly and wired with iTunes, the former while you are within reach of your own network. Their business model can potentially be compatible with privacy since it does not rely on personal data gathering. Their profit is generated by actually selling devices and digital goods.


I should have been a bit clearer. Your iOS devices are mobile - you may not be at home for days. iOS does indeed offer wireless backups, but only if you're at home.

And by the way, I find that downmodding that hit me appaling and a sign of unhealthy group-think.


iOS lets you do secure non-wireless backups.

And the reason they do key escrow otherwise is simple: most people forget passwords.


Yes but the don't offer an option without key escrow, which was my point.


Yes, Apple is different. Their business model is one of the few that is actually worse than the "big data" surveillance companies such as Google. Instead of attacking privacy, Apple has become one of the worst of the rent-seekers trying to control the General Purpose Computer. They have done most of what we feared Microsoft would do, and they have an entire generation of people who now think in terms of their walled garden.

I respect Tim Cook quite a bit for making this effort to argue for privacy and the rule of law, but that doesn't excuse the incredible damage his company has done over the last decade.


They make products people want. Lots of people buy them. As far as I'm aware, there aren't any nefarious tactics involved (eg embrace, extend, extinguish) - so they're not trying to distort the market (pls correct me if I'm wrong). Given that, why do you claim Apple has done damage, when really it's people who chose with their wallets?


I think it would be convenient if Apple just 'bent over' and started selling NSAPhones, but nothing will kill foreign customers who value privacy [1] more than to know the KGB, or MI6, etc (or Madagascar Intel, it doesn't matter who, just not their country) runs their phone. I mean, what American would buy a KGBPhone? Apple's just defending a now largely foreign customer base, it seems to me. I'm sure they'll comply with requests, but they can't be a pushover.

[1] http://www.cnet.com/news/china-likely-to-top-us-for-apple-ip...


That little "namaste" gesture that he ended it with - I wonder if he picked up that habit from Jobs?


Doesn't the latest OS X share to Apple what people are searching for on their own computer? (By default).


Yes, they send your queries out to their servers (not to be confused with sending information about files on your machine out) but the 'session key' they use is apparently not tied to your identity by them or third parties they work with. In their words:

You can always opt out of Suggestions and continue to use Spotlight solely for local search on your device. You are also free to opt out of having Spotlight use Location Services any time you want. If you opt out, Spotlight will still use your IP address to determine a general location to make your searches more relevant. Unlike our competitors, we don’t use a persistent personal identifier to tie your searches to you in order to build a profile based on your search history. We also place restrictions on our partners so they don’t create a long-term trail of identifiable searches by you or from your device.

https://www.apple.com/privacy/privacy-built-in/


It sends your spotlight commands to the search engine to give you web and iCloud results in spotlight. Equally you could say that Google sends every key press you do in chrome's address back home


And IOS 8 takes any chance it gets trying to trick me into enabling Icloud...


Much better response imo than just not going to the event like some other tech CEO's.


Definitely


clickbait title tho


Yea so apple doesn't store and use my information and do creepy shit with stuff i never explicitly gave them my permission to use. Dont fucking insult me, cook.


He's not insulting you, he's protecting their back-end from exposure & scrutiny. NSA has become a problem, but Apple, et al, corps' data collections have been eroding & infringing our privacy all along... in the name of monetization/profit, which is quite a bit more nefarious than security, IMO.


This mean if can continue using my iPhone without risk! Lol


Yeah!




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