In the age of “what shit will we get served today”, it’s refreshing to get a plate of actual decent food for once.
I’m one of the scarce few people who actually give more than a couple shrugs about privacy, and all the potential troubles the digital world brings in that regard. Everyone and everything is constantly draining you for precious data on the places you visit, the things you do, what interests you and what you spend money on. And it’s not all bad, per se, but there’s huge potential for misuse there where that potential isn’t yet being tapped into. And the vast majority of the populace doesn’t seem to know or comprehend this, because they don’t care.
But this is a positive post, which I find delightful to be able to write for a topic like this. You may have heard the FBI making a fuss about some terrorist’s iPhone they obtained. (I’ll be omitting some technical details, but this is more or less what it boils down to.) They fucked up and wanted Apple’s help to obtain the data on it. The only way Apple could achieve that for this specific case was to develop a master key which can unlock all iPhones. Good for obtaining the data on the terrorist’s iPhone, sure, but also all other iPhones. That’d be a huge problem because we can’t guarantee the master key would stay in FBI hands only. (And we can’t trust them to always do The Right Thing, but that’s a different story.)
Apple realized this, and decided to fight back. They told the FBI they wouldn’t comply with their request, lawsuits ensued, and it was a pretty big deal. The very fact that Apple is publicly denying privacy-endangering requests is immensely applaudable. They could’ve kept the whole ordeal much more toned down, or even just silently complied. Instead they stood up to The Man and acknowledged worries people have.
A little closer to home, and quite a bit more recent, is WhatsApp. As of April 5th, all WhatsApp communication between clients with an up-to-date version is encrypted, end-to-end. This means that things you type don’t leave your phone in a readable format. They get jumbled up so WhatsApp themselves or any dirty hackers in the middle won’t be able to read it, but the person you sent it to can un-jumble and read it just fine.
Really happy with this move of theirs. It’s yet another statement from a large company saying “hey, we care”. That’s something to be proud of, something to be celebrated. Heck, they even released the white-paper on their encryption method, detailing how they do it. (No, that’s not a security risk. Secure systems should be secure even if their workings are publicly known.)
If things continue like this, 2016 is going to be a great year for digital privacy.