Klint Finley thinks through Apple’s crypto stance as business strategy:

You may see Tim Cook as a champion of privacy or as an enabler of terrorism. Either way, it makes good business sense for Apple to stand up to the FBI.

Apple has been trying to position itself as a protector of privacy, a kind of anti-Google, since long before the FBI’s court order. In 2014, Tim Cook claimed on Charlie Rose that Apple has no way to decrypt messages sent through iMessage (at least as long as you don’t back them up to iCloud). And at last year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, the company’s speakers repeatedly emphasized that although apps like Siri store your data, that data stays on your device and isn’t shared with Apple.

That positioning stands in stark contrast to Google, which is heavily dependent on advertising revenue and has an incentive to gather as much user data as possible. Yes, Apple runs the iAds network, so there’s a bit of spin involved in the Cupertino company’s positioning, but it’s true that Google and Apple have very different business models overall. That, combined with the way Apple makes it dead simple to encrypt the data stored on your iPhone or Macbook, has given Apple products a reputation of being secure yet easy to use. Complying with the FBI’s request would jeopardize the company’s image as the paragon of easy security.

Of course there’s also a risk in taking on the FBI. …

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Quotable (#114)

Crypto-anarchy in Forbes:

There is something about the Internet that brings out resistance to authority. “Libertarianism is much more important in cyberspace than in real space,” says David Friedman. “Nearly all political discussion on-line is pro- or antilibertarian. Libertarianism is the central axis.”

[…] Against all this governments are fighting a battle they have no prayer of winning, says Walter Wriston. Fortified with strong cryptography and growing exponentially, Wriston says, the Internet will irrevocably weaken governments as we know them. “They haven’t got a chance in hell with that thing,” he chuckles. “There’s no way anybody can control it.” […] We do not know where all this will end, and neither does anyone else, but for better or worse, the implications for politics, for economics and for human freedom are enormous. The 20th century was the century of Big Wars and Big Governments; fascist, communist, welfare state. The 21st century is going to be something quite different.


Are the aliens hidden by advanced cryptography?

“If you look at encrypted communication, if they are properly encrypted, there is no real way to tell that they are encrypted,” Snowden said. “You can’t distinguish a properly encrypted communication from random behavior.”

(This doesn’t address the question of how an alien culture would be able to encrypt its material civilization — or cosmic matter-energy process — but that’s also a suggestive question.)


Conceived as computational hardware, the scale of the universe sheds awesomeness fast:

The entire visible universe since the big bang is capable of having performed 10^122 operations and of storing 10^92 bits. While these are large numbers, they are still quite finite. 10^122 is roughly 2^406, so the entire universe used as a massive quantum computer is still not capable of searching through all combinations of 500 bits.
This limitation is good news for our ability to design infrastructure today that will still constrain future superintelligences. Cryptographic systems that require brute force searching for a 500 bit key will remain secure even in the face of the most powerful superintelligence. In Base64, the following key:
would stymie the entire universe doing a brute force search.

Quotable (#101)

Nuance on encryption from some senior voices in the US security establishment:

We recognize the importance our officials attach to being able to decrypt a coded communication under a warrant or similar legal authority. But the issue that has not been addressed is the competing priorities that support the companies’ resistance to building in a back door or duplicated key for decryption. We believe that the greater public good is a secure communications infrastructure protected by ubiquitous encryption at the device, server and enterprise level without building in means for government monitoring. […] … Strategically, the interests of U.S. businesses are essential to protecting U.S. national security interests. After all, political power and military power are derived from economic strength. If the United States is to maintain its global role and influence, protecting business interests from massive economic espionage is essential. And that imperative may outweigh the tactical benefit of making encrypted communications more easily accessible to Western authorities.

ADDED: Friedersdorf comments.

Twitter cuts (#58)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water:

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Twitter cuts (#20)

A crucial tweet-cascade, with some yet-unprocessed, deep political philosophy under the hood:

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