Sometimes you have to wonder if the various political candidates are trying to lose the knowledgeable techie vote. Chris Christie has been strongly pro-surveillance, and it’s not hard to guess where he would come down on the whole “backdooring encryption” debate. However, few of the other candidates have been directly asked about that — though that may be changing. Jeb Bush has now stated that he’s against encryption, because, apparently it harms America.
“If you create encryption, it makes it harder for the American government to do its job—while protecting civil liberties—to make sure that evildoers aren’t in our midst,” Bush said in South Carolina at an event sponsored by Americans for Peace, Prosperity, and Security, a group with close ties to military contractors.
Bush said “we need to find a new arrangement with Silicon Valley in this regard because I think this is a very dangerous kind of situation.”
This is, of course, mostly deeply wrong, while also partially right, but for the wrong reasons. First of all, if we want Americans to be safer we should be demanding more encryption, not less. It is a confused state of mind that, just as we keep hearing about more and more data being leaked and hacked into whether by individual malicious hackers or, potentially, nation states, thinks the “answer” to this is somehow less security, rather than more.
However, in a weird way, Bush is actually correct. In some instances, encryption actually does make the government’s job harder. But that’s a feature, not a bug. Bush should, perhaps, listen to his brother’s former Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff who recently came out against backdooring encryption, noting:
… we do not historically organize our society to make it maximally easy for law enforcement, even with court orders, to get information. We often make trade-offs and we make it more difficult. If that were not the case then why wouldn’t the government simply say all of these [takes out phone] have to be configured so they’re constantly recording everything that we say and do and then when you get a court order it gets turned over and we wind up convicting ourselves. So I don’t think socially we do that.
This is an important point that Jeb Bush (and many folks in favor of backdooring encryption) don’t seem to get.
Separately, from Bush’s quote, it appears he’s not even familiar with the details of the debate (not that this stops him from opining ignorantly about it). By saying that merely “making” encryption is bad for America, he’s just wrong. The debate isn’t about making encryption. It’s about whether or not encryption should be (or, realistically, can be) compromised via some sort of backdoor. Experts have explained why this actually makes us all worse off, but it’s rather disturbing that people like Jeb Bush have summarized the “we should backdoor encyrption” side of things as “we should be against encryption.”