Tim Cook on iOS encryption and the San Bernadino case

From an open letter he published yesterday:

But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

He continues:

Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government.

We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.

While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.

Let me quote Cook again for emphasis: “…make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”

My letter to my representation regarding PIPA/SOPA

In case you haven’t heard, there is currently a pair of bills being discussed by both sides of congress that, if passed, will have a profound effect on how the Internet works and enable tools for the government to censor the Internet in profound ways.  The U.S. Senate’s version of the bill is called the “Protect-IP Act of 2011” or PIPA.  PIPA’s U.S. House counterpart is called the “Stop Online Privacy Act of 2011” or SOPA.  Watch this video (YouTube) to get an idea about the goals of these bills.  These bills are bad for the Internet and bad for free speech.  Below is the text of a letter I sent to my congressional representation encouraging them to understand the ramifications of the bills and fight against them.  I encourage you to contact your representation as well.  You can steal as much from my letter as is useful.



[Greeting and introduction].  I am concerned about a bill that is in progress in the U.S. Senate [U.S. House].  That bill is the PROTECT IP Act or PIPA [Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA]. While I understand that the stated goal of this act is to protect intellectual property, the mechanisms that this bill will enable will break the Internet’s openness and present the government with revolutionary tools to enact censorship on a platform that should be open and free.  The technology proposed to support this bill is not that different from that being used in China, North Korea, and Iran where free speech is stifled.  While the goals of this act may be different than those of oppressive governments, we should not allow our government to seize such controls for any reason.

In addition to the technical issues this bill would create, there are additional financial burdens that will be placed on businesses.  Businesses face the threat of increased costs to ensure compliance with the provisions of PIPA [SOPA].  Along with these costs are increased legal fees that could result from the frivolous lawsuits that this bill could enable.   While businesses of all sizes will be affected by this new financial burden, it will no doubt have the greatest effect on small and medium businesses, which are the backbone of the American economy and drivers of innovation.

The United States is built on the freedom of speech.  The Internet is the greatest enabler of free speech.  If choosing between protecting intellectual property and free speech, I hope that all Americans would choose free speech.  I believe that there are ways to protect intellectual property without hampering free speech.  American business is full of brilliant minds, and there is no reason we cannot find a way to solve this problem without damaging the single greatest technological innovation of our time.

I have seen too many people in your position refuse to understand the seriousness of this bill.  Many senators [congressmen and congresswomen] refuse to take time to understand the basic ideas of how the Internet works and allow this bill to move along based purely on their own ignorance.  Please don’t allow this attitude to infect you.  This is a serious matter that will have a profound effect on the Internet’s infrastructure for this and future generations.  Please take time to understand what PIPA [SOPA] really means for the freedom of speech and the Internet and use your office to oppose it.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Kevin L. Dayton

On Steve Jobs

Like many others, Steve Jobs inspired me. About a year ago, a colleague of mine and I were in Santa Clara, CA for a developers conference. On the last day, there was a long stretch between the closing keynote and our flight out, and I insisted that we take a short detour on our way to San Jose and see Apple HQ. It was only a quick stop on a nerd pilgrimage, but a small part of me thought that we’d get a look at Jobs.

It didn’t happen, but seeing 1 Infinite Loop was an opportunity to pay homage to man and a company that has inspired me greatly over the last 15 years. From the first time I used a Mac in journalism school to the iPod reinvigorating my love for music to the time spent building an iPad app at work this week, my adult life has been unmistakably marked by Jobs’s vision at Apple.

He was an inspiration and a visionary and will be missed. God rest his soul.

Google to acquire Motorola Mobility

Major news to start the week.  Google will dish out $12.5B for Motorola’s mobile phone making arm.  This signals the search giant’s first significant commitment to hardware in the mobile space.

The acquisition of Motorola Mobility, a dedicated Android partner, will enable Google to supercharge the Android ecosystem and will enhance competition in mobile computing. Motorola Mobility will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. Google will run Motorola Mobility as a separate business.

— Google Press Release

What does this mean for the likes of Samsung, LG, and other Android-dependent manufacturers? I guess time will tell.

via This is my next

Matt Drance on Google’s patent lamentations

From Apple Outsider:

It is a textbook example of why you don’t open your mouth before you’re ready to talk. This was a chance to set the record straight and turn the tables in this debate, and Google blew it. Most of the mistakes made were simple, avoidable failures of communication.

Like Drance, I agree with Google’s core premise that the patent system seems broken, but they failed to articulate the core issues and came off as whiny losers under the current rules of the game.

Marco Arment: “Own your identity”

The developer of Instapaper and one of the founders of Tumblr on Google+ and taking ownership of your online life:

If you care about your online presence, you must own it. I do, and that’s why my email address has always been at my own domain, not the domain of any employer or webmail service.

You might think your address will be fine indefinitely, but if I used a webmail address from the best webmail provider at the time I broke away from my university address and formed my own identity, it would have ended in And that wasn’t very long ago.

Locking your identity in won’t prevent a major social service from succeeding. Sadly, most people don’t care about giving control of their online identity to current or future advertising companies.


Privacy concerns found in Pandora’s Android app

From ThreatPost:

That free service comes at a price, Veracode found. Researchers who took apart the application and studied its code found libraries for five different ad networks embedded in the Pandora application. Those libraries collected and trasmitted a variety of different data from the Android phone and its owner. The data included both the owner’s GPS location and tidbits the owners gender, birthday and postal code information. There was evidence that the app attempted to provide continuous location monitoring – which would tell advertisers not just where the user accessed the application from, but also allow them to track that user’s movement over time.

I tend to overreact when it comes to privacy concerns, but I think this represents a legitimate concern for everyone in the era of free mobile apps. While the developer might not give up personal data maliciously or even knowingly, advertisers who offer up software packages to developers for ad placement might be slightly more nefarious.  App developers should be cautious as to what info their apps are divulging, and consumers should realize that  “free” doesn’t always mean “free”.  You might be giving up a lot more personal info than you think.

The Pope at Westminster Abbey

Damien Thompson on Pope Benedict XVI’s historic visit to Westminster Abbey:

Even Catholics who would never be so crude as to say “the Abbey belongs to us, not to you” sensed that history was being re-balanced in some way. They realised that the Pope had as much right to sit in that sanctuary as the Archbishop of Canterbury who, to be fair, showed the Holy Father a degree of respect that implied that he, at least, recognises the spiritual primacy of the See of Peter even if he rejects some of its teachings.

Fake ghost pictures way before Photoshop

Gizmodo on William Hope’s use of double exposure to create fake ghost images:

The results were spooky. Even knowing that they are fake, I look at them and feel the chills today. Imagine how it was back then. Even very smart people, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, bought into it. When Hope was exposed as a scam artist by the Society for Psychical Research, the writer defended him.

Cool, but indeed, very spooky.