Congressman Ted Lieu’s official response to FBI vs Apple

First, a bit of background on Ted Lieu (from Wikipedia):

Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Lieu’s family immigrated to Cleveland, Ohio, where he grew up. Lieu graduated from Stanford University in 1991 with a B.S. in Computer Science and an A.B. in Political Science and graduated magna cum laude with a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1994, where he was Editor in Chief of the Georgetown Law Journal and received four American Jurisprudence awards.

He also served as a law clerk to Judge Thomas Tang of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

He has a computer science degree from Stanford and a law degree from Georgetown. A rare combination for someone in Congress. A combination that gives him more insight than most into the technical issues in this case.

And now this from his web site:

This FBI court order, by compelling a private sector company to write new software, is essentially making that company an arm of law-enforcement. Private sector companies are not—and should not be—an arm of government or law enforcement.

This court order also begs the question: Where does this kind of coercion stop? Can the government force Facebook to create software that provides analytic data on who is likely to be a criminal? Can the government force Google to provide the names of all people who searched for the term ISIL? Can the government force Amazon to write software that identifies who might be suspicious based on the books they ordered?

Forcing Apple to weaken its encryption system in this one case means the government can force Apple—or any other private sector company—to weaken encryption systems in all future cases. This precedent-setting action will both weaken the privacy of Americans and hurt American businesses. And how can the FBI ensure the software that it is forcing Apple to create won’t fall into the wrong hands? Given the number of cyberbreaches in the federal government—including at the Department of Justice—the FBI cannot guarantee this back door software will not end up in the hands of hackers or other criminals.

This is an incredibly complex issue. It’s about the back door, about weakening (breaking really) encryption. It’s about the peak of the slippery slope when the government requests an ability to breach one person’s privacy. It’s about national security and having the tools necessary to fight terrorism. It’s about the perceived “vs” in Apple vs the FBI. It’s about politics and capitalism.

Barring some compromise by either side, this case seems headed for the Supreme Court (by way of appeal to a district court judge, then to the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco, then the Supreme Court). To what may well be a split down the middle, eight-person Supreme Court. This is shaping up to be one hell of an election.