We are witnessing a very dangerous trend of liberal democracies with universal human rights and freedoms mutating into a authoritarian police states.
One example for this concern is a recent speech and the underlying thinking of the FBI Director James Comey as reported in the NZ Herald. Comey “warns against the push by technology companies to encrypt smartphone data and operating systems, arguing that murder cases could be stalled, suspects could walk free and justice could be thwarted by a locked phone or an encrypted hard drive“. Even if he had to admit that he didn’t have an example of that yet Comey said: “Logic tells me there are going to be cases like that“.
The idea behind his attack on encryption is worth thinking about. Since when is the aim to convict criminals paramount over all other considerations like the universal right to privacy and free speech or more specific to criminal procedures the right to a fair trial ? The history of the criminal justice system is full of cases where people literally got away with murder because the police made mistakes and evidence became inadmissible. It is one of the most basic principles of the rule of law that it applies foremost to the powers of the state. The thinking of none other than the Director of the FBI trowing all this overboard just to secure convictions is very dangerous indeed. He is obviously unable – beyond his brief as the top cop – to see the fundamental human values and rights to privacy and free speech. The issue is reduced to “Encryption isn’t just a technical feature. It’s a marketing pitch.”
We can only hope that the lawmakers in the US – and in New Zealand for that matter where similar calls were heard – hold the line and protect the rights of all of us not just criminals