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Government at Standoff with Mobile Encryption

Mobile EncryptionIn one of the few times an tech issue intersects with a political issue on this website, the Wall Street Journal reported today the United States Government is at odds with mobile device manufacturers and software developers over mobile encryption, saying it could lead to a “tragedy. ” The issue at hand is Apple, Google and other mobile software developers purposefully protecting users data, and preventing chances for law enforcement officers to unlock a locked device. In doing so, the software companies are combating the perception they are providing a “backdoor” for data to compromised by the government.

Law-enforcement officials, tone-deaf to the 4th Ammendment, believe this shift towards sheltering users data from government intrusion could lead to a tragedy. Even with a court-order it will now become more difficult for officials to gain access to a device’s data including pictures, messages, appointments or contacts. For instance, were Apple to be served with a court order, they wouldn’t even have the ability to decrypt the phone’s data.

While the government isn’t completely without recourse, as the majority of desired information can be obtained through wireless carriers, with regard to call logs and messages sent, coupled with files/information backed up to the computer. As a result of NSA information being leaked in how data collection on US Citizens is carried out, some might rightly call it spying, tech manufacturers and software developers are doing their part to avoid the blame. The WSJ article also reports WhatsAPP, owned by Facebook, is now encrypting text messages sent via the free data-driven service. Manufacturers and software developers aren’t alone, however, as telecommunications providers are starting to challenge the legality behind the government collecting data (spying) on citizens.

Under the guise of the Patriot Act, and “national security” the director of the FBI, James Comey, was quoted as saying “We need our private sector partners to take a step back, to pause to consider, I hope, a change of course.” Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, had this to say “Look, if law enforcement wants something they should go to the user and get it. It’s not for me to do that.”

The move to tweak software to encrypt data seems foolproof. As the government continues to overreach in “surveillance” rulings, there isn’t much (any?) legal precedence to force a manufacturer/developer to alter their Intellectual Property.

Photo from Wired‘s fantastic Article on iPhone encryption

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Apple to Team up with Comcast, What Could Go Wrong?

Apple, makers of the iPod, iPad, iPhone and computer hardware and software are in talks with internet, television and telephony giant Comcast to bring internet-streaming based TV service to consumers.

These talks represent the first tangible action of note in the quest to revolutionize the way cable television is delivered to customers. As more and more consumers “cut the cord” of cable, and move towards internet streaming media such as Neftlix, Hulu and the like, cable companies are scrounging to fill the void in the their subscriber base.

Much like Netflix has done previously, these talks would center on the content being delivered through a “fastrack” on Comcast’s broadband network, allowing subscribers to have priority access to bandwidth necessary to deliver streaming TV.

This news comes at a time where both companies have much ground to gain. Apple hasn’t been as innovative as they were in the past in terms of delivering game-changing products to the marketplace. Comcast is losing cable television subscribers left and right due to a mixture of rising costs, limited demand and poor customer service and satisfaction.

These talks could also signal that Apple is pausing its quest to deliver their own television set, or programming. Apple is having difficulty with content owners, wary of Apple’s meteoric rise in the music industry with iTunes. Apple relies on these content owners, and infrastructure companies since they are not investing in infrastructure and content delivery like other techno-giants Verizon and Google, who are both expanding their fiberoptic service.

Time will  tell if this happens, and if it does happen whether or not it is a smart move for both companies. The only problem I see with streaming television delivery is as a Comcast customer I have less than 90% uptime on my home network, while maintaining 100% uptime on my cable television service.

Clearly both sides have some work to do before this will be a winner.

 

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