Dear Law Enforcement – It’s Your Fault We Justifiably Don’t Trust You

FBI Director James B. Comey

There’s been a lot of fuss lately about Apple’s move to take themselves out of the encryption loop when it comes to having access to your private data that you store on products you purchase from them. Apple will no longer have access to the private keys that can decrypt the information on your personal devices. Google quickly followed suit. The decision makes them unable to comply with law enforcement’s request for your private information. The move was celebrated by users concerned with the privacy of things they save on devices that have become ubiquitous to modern life. That ubiquity is what gives law enforcement a raging erection at having access to such a detailed cache of personal and private information. They were not amused at no longer having easy access and went into ‘the sky is falling’ mode led by FBI Director James B. Comey in a session at Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

“…those of us in law enforcement and public safety have a major fear of missing out—missing out on predators who exploit the most vulnerable among us…missing out on violent criminals who target our communities…missing out on a terrorist cell using social media to recruit, plan, and execute an attack.

Criminals and terrorists would like nothing more than for us to miss out. And the more we as a society rely on these devices, the more important they are to law enforcement and public safety officials. We have seen case

after case—from homicides and car crashes to drug trafficking, domestic abuse, and child exploitation—where critical evidence came from smartphones, hard drives, and online communication.” –Going Dark: Are Technology, Privacy, and Public Safety on a Collision Course?” – FBI Director James B. Comey

Comey talks as if he and law enforcement are entitled to our personal data. It’s as if he believes that we are wrong for wanting privacy.

“And with sophisticated encryption, there might be no solution, leaving the government at a dead end—all in the name of privacy and network security.” – James B. Comey

It seems that Comey doesn’t understand how much privacy is important. In this post 9/11 world where law enforcement and government have eroded our liberties, civil rights, and privacy, this statement shows just how little he values it as long as he gets what he wants. This type of thinking doesn’t help foster trust. In case he hasn’t been paying attention, the people don’t trust law enforcement or the government. We aren’t being given reason to.

Let’s look at what we’ve been witness to in regards to trust from those that are supposed to protect and serve us: we are over two months in with protests in Ferguson and the shameful police response against civilians there, the killing of civilians by police across the country, the NSA’s massive warrantless internet and telephone spying program on everyday United States citizens and even members of Congress, the Edward Snowden revelations, the Project Prism surveillance program, the DEA impersonating Sondra Arquiett on Facebook using her pictures and even those of her children to create a profile to interact with suspects in a drug investigation, the California Highway Patrol ring of officers who have been stealing nude photos of women they stop and share them as a game, and the program of a coalition of several police agencies in Virginia that are stockpiling private phone records put together with little oversight. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means yet it is mentally exhausting to think about.

“I think it’s time to ask: Where are we, as a society? Are we no longer a country governed by the rule of law, where no one is above or beyond that law? Are we so mistrustful of government—and of law enforcement—that we are willing to let bad guys walk away…willing to leave victims in search of justice?” – James B. Comey

Comey is correct. It is past time to ask about where we are as a society given these revelations about those with the type of power that these agencies have. If he is serious about a dialogue about public trust and the organizations that are supposed to be trustworthy he has to start by fixing these issues. You can’t ask the people to trust you while at the same time aggressively violating that trust. Those with this responsibility should be held to a higher standard; should hold themselves and each other to a higher standard. Trust is easily broken but hard to get back. He may head the FBI and have no control over the other agencies, government, or local law enforcement but nonetheless he and his agency will be painted with the same brush.

Oh shit that's America

This mistrust is the fault of law enforcement. Every time the line has been crossed, every time the blue wall of silence protects one of their own, every revelation of transgressions upon the citizens you serve that takes place places the fault squarely on the shoulders of those in power. If you have the ability to fight against it and don’t then you are allowing it to continue to the detriment of all our sakes. You want a dialogue? Start there.

Don’t forget about the position the people are in. Many feel like they are caught in between the proverbial rock and a hard place. On one hand there are legitimate threats from criminals trying to do harm to them. On the other hand are the people that are supposed to uphold the rights and protect the safety of citizens abusing their authority and power. We’ve went from “innocent until proven guilty” to “guilty until proven innocent”. From collecting information on suspects to collecting everyone’s information and treating the population with suspicion.

“I want to get a better handle on your thoughts, because those of us in law enforcement can’t do what we need to do without your trust and your support.” – James B. Comey

If trusting law enforcement scares some people more than the threats you describe then you have failed in what you do. There is no debate on whether we need law enforcement agencies, or course we do. The debate is about whether they are out of control and trustworthy.

Additional:
http://www.brookings.edu/events/2014/10/16-going-dark-technology-privacy-comey-fbi#/full-event/
http://www.fbi.gov/news/speeches/going-dark-are-technology-privacy-and-public-safety-on-a-collision-course
http://www.infoworld.com/article/2838181/security/clueless-fbi-sabotages-its-anti-encryption-campaign.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/2014/09/25/68c4e08e-4344-11e4-9a15-137aa0153527_story.html
http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/oct/16/fbi-director-attacks-tech-companies-encryption
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/30/iphone-6-encrypted-phone-data-default
http://thefreethoughtproject.com/cop-stole-nude-photos-dui-suspect-game-police/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/10/07/dea-created-a-fake-facebook-profile-in-this-womans-name-using-seized-pics-then-impersonated-her/
http://www.wired.com/2014/10/virginia-police-secretively-stockpiling-private-phone-records/

 

 

Jaylon Carter
Jaylon Carter is a blogger, social media marketing consultant, former Congressional Campaign Media & Communications Director, and a Hip Hop artist who performs under the stage name Timid (@timidmc). He also runs NetBuzzDigest.com, a subscription newsletter informing parents of current happenings on the Internet.



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