Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gave a speech yesterday all about the fight against ISIS in the wake of the Paris attacks. While most of the attention (quite reasonably so) on the speech was about her plan to deal with ISIS, as well as her comments on the ridiculous political hot potato of how to deal with Syrian refugees, she still used the opportunity to align herself with the idiotic side of the encryption debate, suggesting that Silicon Valley has to somehow “fix” the issue of law enforcement wanting to see everything. Here’s what she said:
Another challenge is how to strike the right balance of protecting privacy and security. Encryption of mobile communications presents a particularly tough problem. We should take the concerns of law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals seriously. They have warned that impenetrable encryption may prevent them from accessing terrorist communications and preventing a future attack. On the other hand, we know there are legitimate concerns about government intrusion, network security, and creating new vulnerabilities that bad actors can and would exploit. So we need Silicon Valley not to view government as its adversary. We need to challenge our best minds in the private sector to work with our best minds in the public sector to develop solutions that will both keep us safe and protect our privacy.
Now is the time to solve this problem, not after the next attack.
It does not. Weakening encryption undermines both security and privacy. There’s no “balance” to be had here. You want to maximize both security and privacy and the way you do that is with strong encryption.
Also, the bit about “Silicon Valley” has to “not view government as its adversary” is another bullshit line that has been favored by James Comey and others, who keep insisting that when technologists explain to him that backdooring encryption in a manner that only “the good guys” can use it is impossible that they really mean they haven’t tried hard enough. Once again, that’s not it. What pretty much the entire tech community has been saying is that it’s impossible to create such a thing without undermining the whole thing and making everyone less safe. Hell, here’s security expert Steve Bellovin explaining this pretty clearly. He goes step by step through why it won’t work, why it makes things more dangerous, why it will be abused, and why it will put us all at risk.
And the reason that Silicon Valley views the government as adversaries is because speeches like Clinton’s sets them up that way. Her speech, like Comeys’ past speeches are directly setting up the government as an adversary to good computer security, asking technologists to undermine their own creations and make everyone less safe for some unclear amorphous belief that it might make a few people more safe at some point in the future. So, the answer isn’t scolding Silicon Valley as Hillary has chosen to do, but rather understanding reality, and recognizing that what she is directly advocating for is to harm the safety of Americans and others around the globe.
This raise serious questions about who is advising Clinton on tech policy. When she was at the State Department, it actually did a lot of really good things on encryption and protecting communications of people around the globe. It’s pretty ridiculous for Clinton to undermine her own efforts with such a dumb statement in this speech.