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Linkin' Log News Politics Technology

Apple v. FBI: Dawn of Justice

As you’re likely aware by now, Apple was ordered by a federal court on Tuesday to provide aid to the FBI in order to unlock the iPhone 5c that belonged to one of the shooters in last December’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California. Apple, in a massively delightful display of not giving a shit, is not complying with this order, and has taken to both the Court of Public Opinion and the Court of Laws and Such to fight it.

The government, naturally, is cartoonishly batting their eyelashes at the American public, cooing that they’ll totally only use this software just this one time, so there’s obviously no need to get into a tizzy about it all. “Trust us,” they hiss in our collective ear, “we’ll totally be cool about this.” Politicians of all stripes are coming out to decry Apple’s lack of blind compliance to this order, including America’s Racist, Islamaphobic, Xenophobic Id Given Human Form, Donald “The J is for Jerkoff” Trump.

As per usual, though, the politics of “We need to do things to prevent terrorists from doing bad stuff!” is mostly bullshit, and will end up hurting us all if the dumb-dumbs in the government get their way.

Recommended Reading

Before we get into my ranting on this subject, there’s probably a few things you’ll want to read first:

Caught up? Faaaaaaaantastic!

Unreasonably Burdensome Bullshit

The FBI is arguing that this order falls under the All Writs Act, which gives federal courts the power to issue orders that are “necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law”. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), however, points out that this act is limited to orders that don’t bypass other laws, violate the Constitution, or force a third party to act in a manner that is “unreasonably burdensome”.

Forcing Apple to rewrite portions of iOS in order for the FBI to gain access to the information on the iPhone 5c in question is, in my completely uneducated opinion, almost entirely unreasonably burdensome bullshit and, in the opinion of people who actually practice law, very likely unconstitutional.

Who Owns The Phone? It Don’t Matter, Dumbass.

Senator Dianne Feinstein was quoted on Buzzfeed News as saying the following regarding this whole kerfuffle:

I understand there are privacy concerns, but in this case the phone is owned by the county—which has consented to a search—and there is a valid search warrant… It’s not unreasonable for Apple to provide technical assistance when ordered by the court.

Sen. Feinstein is correct as to the owner of the phone — it was issued by the shitbag terrorist’s job for him, so it belongs to the county. However, if I were to call AppleCare and ask them to help me get back into my phone because I forgot my passcode (and my hands were cut off, preventing me from using Touch ID to get access), their answer would basically amount to a hearty shrug and an awkward apology. From Apple’s privacy page (emphasis mine):

Encryption protects trillions of online transactions every day. Whether you’re shopping or paying a bill, you’re using encryption. It turns your data into indecipherable text that can only be read by the right key. We’ve been protecting your data for over a decade with SSL and TLS in Safari, FileVault on Mac, and encryption that’s built into iOS. We also refuse to add a “backdoor” into any of our products because that undermines the protections we’ve built in. And we can’t unlock your device for anyone because you hold the key — your unique password. We’re committed to using powerful encryption because you should know the data on your device and the information you share with others is protected.

Admittedly, I don’t program software, so I don’t exactly know quite how an operating system is built, but I can’t imagine that rewriting the portions of iOS that handle the phone’s security are particularly easy to unravel. And it’s not like you can just rip out that one part and move on with your day, I’d wager — I’m sure there’s references all over the damn place to those security frameworks, and those will also have to be removed. That’s a ton of hours of paid labor that Apple will have to foot the bill on, and despite their hordes of cash, that’s not something any company should have to deal with.

Those costs and efforts wouldn’t be incurred to help out any other customer in the world, so why anyone would see it as completely reasonable and not at all burdensome is completely beyond me. However, that’s not the strongest argument Apple’s got up their sleeve: asking them to change their code to comply with a government order is kinda-sorta unconstitutional.

Code Is Speech, You Stupid Sons of Bitches.

One of the first victories the EFF got under their belt was Bernstein v. Department of Justice, where a student at Berkeley wanted to publish an algorithm he had created, a program to run that algorithm, and a paper that explains what the crap that algorithm does.

Fact: by the end of that sentence, I no longer had to spell-check “algorithm”.

Back in the 1900’s, the government designated encryption software as a munition, because logic. This meant that Bernstein would have to submit his idea to the DoJ, register as a freakin’ arms dealer, and apply for an export license in order to publish his findings online. That, as you might guess, was some grade-A bullcrap.

From the EFF:

The court eventually ruled that the export control laws on encryption violated Bernstein’s First Amendment rights by prohibiting his constitutionally protected speech, leading to regulatory changes that made it easier to publish encryption software online without the approval of the US government. Along the way, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in the Northern District of California issued the crucial first ruling that found that code is speech and so is protected by the First Amendment.

This court can find no meaningful difference between computer language, particularly high-level languages as defined above, and German or French….Like music and mathematical equations, computer language is just that, language, and it communicates information either to a computer or to those who can read it…

The EFF made this argument in a blog post last October: if code is speech, then forcing Apple to change their source code to work around iOS’s encryption should be considered “compelled speech”, which they are protected from under the First Amendment. They also argue that this would violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, but I’m not a lawyer, so I have absolutely no idea, nor do I feel like doing the Googling required to try and make those leaps of logic by myself.

Here’s The Thing

The FBI and DoJ are being willfully ignorant and ridiculously short-sighted in this… even ignoring the other issues regarding smartphone encryption, putting Apple in this position in the United States will likely give other governments a blueprint in how to get access to encrypted, too. As TechCrunch observed, we shouldn’t get bogged down in the technical details of what needs to be done for Apple to comply with the order… it’s a question of whether Apple should be compelled to comply with the order. Personally, I think you’d have to be a complete mouth-breathing weirdo to think that the benefits of breaking iOS’s encryption outweigh the damage it could cause.

Of course, I also happen to think that 99% of the people in the United States government are mouth-breathing weirdos, so I’m fairly concerned that this is going to end poorly.

Skeletor Yelling

h/t: Daring Fireball for a bunch of things, It’s A Very Nice Website for other stuff, and a whole mess o’ Googling.

Categories
Linkin' Log News Politics

Sarah Palin’s Endorsement of Donald Trump for President: The Full Text

Buzzfeed’s Kyle Blaine transcribed the entirety of Sarah Palin’s endorsement speech for Donald Trump:

He is from the private sector, not a politician, can I get a “Hallelujah!” Where, in the private sector, you actually have to balance budgets in order to prioritize, to keep the main thing, the main thing, and he knows the main thing: a president is to keep us safe economically and militarily. He knows the main thing, and he knows how to lead the charge. So troops, hang in there, because help’s on the way because he, better than anyone, isn’t he known for being able to command, fire!

Dammit, Governer Palin, incoherent rambling is my jobgo back to keeping an eye on Russia from your home state and stop trying to steal my thing.

Categories
Linkin' Log Technology

“We don’t want to debate climate change. We want to stop it.”

Apple unveiled their Environmental Responsibility site today, and their messaging is about as unambiguous as it gets.

I suppose if the climate-change-denier crowd hadn’t already dumped their Apple stock, I guess they will now. I’m sure Tim Cook’s heart breaks at that sizable loss. 1


  1. Apple stock is currently trading higher than yesterday, so, yup, this was a totally boneheaded move or whatever. 2 
  2. That was sarcasm. You got that it was sarcasm, right? 
Categories
Linkin' Log News

“Reconcile Yourselves With Your God, For All Will Perish In The Tempest”

From The Onion:

“The furious hoarfrost bearing down upon us knows neither mercy nor reason, and all within the five boroughs will perish, cowering in their brittle dwellings,” said de Blasio, adding that none would find succor from the gale save those favored by providence to pass quietly in their sleep.

Obviously overblown rhetoric from de Blasio. We’re all going to be fine as long as we have milk and bread.

You do have milk and bread, right?

Categories
Linkin' Log

Dogs: Not So Colorblind!

Oddly, this week has been a big one for conversations regarding dog colorblindness for me — because there’s a conversation you’re likely to have more than once a month, amirite?! — so I figured I’d drop this here for easy reference the next time it comes up, which will probably be in the next 20 minutes or so.

Categories
Entertainment Linkin' Log News Politics

The Elf on the Shelf is a Real Bastard, You Guys

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives believes the Elf on the Shelf is an excellent way to get your kids ready for the “1984”-esque surveillance state we’re heading toward:

What is troubling is what The Elf on the Shelf represents and normalizes: anecdotal evidence reveals that children perform an identity that is not only for caretakers, but for an external authority (The Elf on the Shelf), similar to the dynamic between citizen and authority in the context of the surveillance state. Further to this, The Elf on the Shelf website offers teacher resources, integrating into both home and school not only the brand but also tacit acceptance of being monitored and always being on one’s best behaviour–without question.

The Elf on the Shelf is a Real Bastard
“If you don’t have anything to hide, you don’t have anything to worry about, kids! Teehee!”
Categories
Linkin' Log News Society

W. Kamau Bell On Being a Black Male, Six Feet Four Inches Tall, in America in 2014

From Vanity Fair:

I am afraid of the cops. Absolutely petrified of the cops. Now understand, I’ve never been arrested or held for questioning. I’ve never been told that I “fit the description.” But that doesn’t change a thing. I am afraid of cops the way that spiders are afraid of boots. You’re walking along, minding your own business, and SQUISH! You are dead.

Simply put, I am afraid of the cops because I am black. To raise the stakes even further, I am male. And to go all in on this pot of fear, I am six foot four, and weigh 250 pounds. Michael Brown, the unarmed Missouri 18-year-old shot dead by police this summer, was also six foot four. Depending on your perspective, I could be described as a “gentle giant,” the way that teachers described Brown. Or I could be described as a “demon,” the way that Officer Darren Wilson described Michael Brown in his grand-jury testimony.

It’s informative and infuriating. That this is a thing that anyone should have to deal with pisses me off to no end.

Categories
Entertainment Linkin' Log

The Force Awakens

It was announced yesterday that the next installment in the “Star Wars” saga will be titled “The Force Awakens”, which is only slightly better than the title I had proposed.

You can make your own “Star Wars” title placard here, too, if, like me, you have nothing better to do.

Categories
Linkin' Log Politics Society Technology

Tim Cook: “I’m Proud to Be Gay”

From Bloomberg Technology:

If hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.

I look forward to the day that someone being gay is about as newsworthy as announcing if you have an innie or outie belly-button. But, until we get to that point, stuff like this well-written bit o’ business are important.

Categories
Linkin' Log Technology

Minimally Minimal Reviews aëdle VK-1 Headphones

From Minimally Minimal:

I’ve been very selective about what products I end up showcasing on the blog. If I suspect that I won’t like a product, I don’t bother reviewing it and harming its reputation. When aëdle emailed me a few weeks ago, I was immediately intrigued. The VK-1 looked attractive in photos and I remembered reading a few positive reviews of them in the past. It’s unfortunate that I have to say this but for the sake of public service I’ll be completely honest: VK-1 is a complete disappointment. Honestly, this is one of the worst products I’ve ever been sent.

I always enjoy a well-written product review, and I appreciate Andrew Kim’s focus on product design. That said, what I appreciate most of all is a review that includes the following passage:

The VK-1 includes a useful carrying case but the branded tag is poorly stitched with the stitching going straight over the graphics. Seriously, what the hell is happening at the aëdle factory? Is everyone drunk?