James Comey Says Apple and Google’s Encryptions ‘Drove Me Crazy’

April 23, 2018 - 3 minutes read

The U.S. government is in an internal war; the White House and the FBI are pitted against each other by accusations, conspiracy theories, and Russian election meddling suspicions. Besides all of this, the U.S. government is also having a tough time getting along with many tech titans and developers in San Francisco.

Recently, Mark Zuckerberg testified on Facebook’s behalf in front of Congress. Now, former FBI Director James Comey just spoke out about his discomfort with Apple and Google’s data encryption.

Butting Heads

Apple CEO Tim Cook is a public proponent of encryption and user privacy, calling it “critical”. Cook also said Apple would not comply with any government to build “backdoors” into Apple’s products. It would make it easy for authorities to access data, which could lead to abuse or leakage.

Comey says that Apple’s and Google’s decision to encrypt their mobile phones for improved user privacy in 2014 angered him. In fact, the decision “drove him crazy”. His concern lies with a distrust of Silicon Valley; he believes the tech giants don’t engage in “true listening” with the FBI because they don’t know what the FBI has to deal with on a daily basis. Tech executives “don’t see the darkness the FBI sees,” he stated. “I found it appalling that the tech types couldn’t see this.”

Cook wrote an open letter in 2016 about encrypting their devices: “While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products.

“And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.” However, authorities argue that encrypting data and disallowing law enforcement to have a backdoor can hurt innocent people and delay serving justice.

Where There’s a Will…

Since the engineers of Apple and Google devices won’t help the government with backdoor hacking, the opportunity has arisen for other parties to take over the demand. One solution, name GrayKey by its creator, a company named GrayShift, is expected to be implemented across the United States. The software helps authorities break into devices, bypassing security features in iPhones.

Neither Apple nor Google issued any official statements in response to Comey’s new book, where this issue arose. For authorities, less stringent rules surrounding device access would be the first step. But Apple and Google don’t seem to be open-minded about the topic, citing their users’ privacy as an utmost concern.

While this dialogue between the debating parties hardly seems open to each other’s perspectives, the results from this conflict will greatly affect many aspects of society. Not only in terms of how mobile app developers or engineers create tech products, but also in terms of how consumers use them. What are your thoughts on this hot topic?

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