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Blame technology!

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As the world learns more and more about the attacks in Paris and how they were coordinated, an obvious scapegoat is encryption technology. The fact that, right now, we do not KNOW a lot about the way that the Paris attacks were implemented has NOT prevented has not prevented “…intelligence officers, law enforcement officials and others from calling attention to technology’s potential role and the possibility that the attackers are “going dark,” hatching their attacks by communicating in unbreakable encoded messages.”

Take a breath and ask yourself this question, “Do we want law enforcement to have routine access to our smartphones, iMessages, and other types of personal communications?” on the outside chance that such access MIGHT aid in stopping the next terrorist attack. I don’t. That is not the America in which I was raised and which I love. MercuryNews.com says:

“The Paris attacks are absolutely tragic,” said Harley Geiger, advocacy director and senior counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology in Washington, D.C. “But the response should not be to undermine cybersecurity for digital services on which people rely.”

The past few years have been an education about the breadth and sweep of the U.S. surveillance operation.

After disclosures of classified documents by Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor, the pendulum swung in the direction of privacy protections. In June, President Barack Obama signed the USA Freedom Act, which reformed the NSA surveillance program that was involved in vacuuming up telephone records.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has been outspoken about providing strong encryption in Apple products and services. Starting last year, iPhone users’ passcodes encrypted photos, email, contacts and other information, and Apple stopped storing encryption keys. “No one should have to decide between privacy or security. We should be smart enough to do both,” Cook said recently.

What about those with the opposing viewpoint? What do THEY have to say?

CIA Director John Brennan said privacy advocates have undermined the ability of spies to monitor terrorists.

New York police Commissioner Bill Bratton said that society has “gone blind in regard to the commercialization and selling of these devices that cannot be accessed either by the manufacturer or, more importantly, by us in law enforcement.”

Some commentators speculated that maybe the attacks were coordinated using Sony’s PlayStation 4. There had been Islamic State chatter of a possible French attack in September, but efforts to monitor the discussion failed when plotters switched to encrypted PlayStation equipment, reported the Los Angeles Times, quoting an anonymous U.S. law enforcement official.

Others have used the moment to attack messaging services such as WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, as well as the kinds of encryption used by Google and Apple.

There is ALWAYS a balancing act when playing with “two-edged swords.” Nothing is simple.

“Nothing has really changed,” said Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society. We have to decide again whether we “are going to have technology that can protect people from privacy violations, trade secret theft, intellectual privacy or human rights violations, or a sequence of backdoors for law enforcement but also for criminals as well.”

Those who recommend a simple solution USUALLY lack an understanding of the problem.

-Bill at

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