Double jeopardy: Changing course on iPhone security

Law enforcement officials in New York were for iPhone security before they were against it.


Say, have you heard about this iPhone security case? Apparently it was in all the papers. Turns out iPhone security was also in the papers in 2013, just differently.

Here’s what New York state officials are saying now.

“NYPD counter-terrorism chief John Miller calls Apple out for aiding criminals by refusing to unlock iPhones”

Officials of New York are adamant! Apple must open the iPhone!

Apple’s decision to withhold user data from the government helps criminals, NYPD counter-terrorism chief John Miller said Sunday.

Smartphone security helps criminals. Huh.

Funny, but the Macalope’s so old he remembers when Apple and other smartphone makers were faulted by the New York state attorney general for failing to live up to their “responsibility to their customers to fulfill their promises to ensure safety and security.” By which the Macalope means he is older than three years old.

Yes, as recently as 2013, police and politicians from New York were complaining that Apple devices were too easy a mark for criminals. “Make them more secure!” they cried.

Three years later…

“I still don’t know what made Apple change their minds and decide to actually design a system that made them not able to aid the police,” Miller told Catsimatidis.

First of all, Apple does aid the police, frequently, and more than just by reducing smartphone-related crime by making phones more secure. What the company balks at is creating back doors that can be exploited.

Second, it’s a bit odd that you don’t remember your own state’s attorney general pillorying Apple for not making its phones more secure. It’s like something happened one dark night in 2015 and New York state officials woke up in an alley in Queens, reeking of fortified malt liquor and dressed in a Dandy costume, remembering nothing of anything that happened since the Yankees’ mascot was retired in 1981.

“You are actually providing aid to the kidnappers, robbers and murderers who have actually been recorded on the telephones in Riker’s Island telling their compatriots on the outside, ‘You gotta get iOS 8. It’s a gift from God,’—and that’s a quote—‘because the cops can’t crack it.’”

They are also providing aid to their customers who aren’t kidnappers, robbers and murders. People who don’t want their bank records and personal information like the location of their friends and family compromised because they left their phone in a bar or a cab.

Can you even imagine the unbelievable crapnado of blazzlefrozzle that would rain down unendingly from the skies if someone’s stolen iPhone ended up leading to a stalking incident or worse? You would be able to walk from one coast of this great nation to the other touching nothing but “APPLE FAIL” headlines. The Macalope really does not like playing these what-if scare scenarios, but it’s effectively impossible when law enforcement offers nothing else.

“There was once such a thing called corporate responsibility,” [Police Commissioner Bill] Bratton said. “Now, it’s corporate irresponsibility.”

Bill, don’t quit your day job to become a professional zing writer. Don’t get the Macalope wrong, you should totally quit your day job, because you’re advising that people should be made less safe so that law enforcement can have more search-and-seizure capabilities… just don’t quit to become a professional zing writer. First of all, the Macalope’s not sure that’s even a real job. But if it were, you’d be terrible at it.

In an editorial published by the Washington Post, Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi noted the problem with going back to the software security standards of 2013, the ones that New York officials complained at the time weren’t good enough.

We cannot afford to fall behind those who would exploit technology in order to cause chaos. To slow our pace, or reverse our progress, puts everyone at risk.

It’s a shame New York officials can’t remember what they were yelling at Apple to do the first time they were yelling at Apple, because that’s the time they were more correct.

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