Tag Archives: government

Texas Gunman’s Locked Phone Reignites Encryption Debate

Another locked smartphone, another garbage reason for demanding access, and another FBI screwup that made this all possible. Either the FBI is woefully incompetent, incapable of getting into a phone (let alone protecting this country from domestic threats), or they’re intentionally screwing up in order to create demand for a precedence that would let them destroy personal security. In the past, the FBI has stated that they’re more interested in setting up a precedence than getting into these devices.

Let’s back up, what are we talking about here? We’ll start by going back to December 2nd, 2015. That’s the date of the San Bernadino attack where 14 people were killed and 22 injured. This started a long and frustrating attack on personal privacy and even free speech from the FBI. The FBI was trying to get into the shooter’s work phone—an older iPhone 5c with reduced security—despite evidence that the phone had nothing of use for them on it. They botched their attempts to log in, preventing Apple from helping them to bypass the encryption by doing a backup to their servers, which they could then decrypt. After locking the phone themselves, the FBI then laid the blame on Apple, saying they should be forced to make a backdoor through encryption for law enforcement. However, this is a multifaceted problem. 1) Creating such a back door would destroy security on all smartphones, through precedence to force other manufacturers to create these backdoors and through leaks. The lack of encryption would put people in the U.S. in danger of having their phones stolen or hacked, would put people living under an authoritarian regime in trouble, women and minorities, especially, and it would hamper our ability to secure devices for politicians, diplomats, and other targets for hacking from foreign entities. (Of course, after Comey’s attack on Hillary Clinton during the election, maybe he was pro-Russian hacking all along.) 2) Forcing Apple to write software would be a violation of the company’s employees’ right to free speech. Software is protected free speech, and this would be the government forcing a company to create a worse product, something that should have horrified “small government” Republicans. It did—for the most part—not upset them, but, as the party leans more authoritarian than traditionally conservative, and with a few allies on the Democrat’s side, like Barrack Obama, such intrusions on individual rights are becoming more common.

In Texas, a man who shouldn’t have been able to buy a gun was able to do just that, skirting gun control laws due to Air Force’s refusal to enforce necessary gun control through accurate reporting. The shooter then took that gun and went to his mother-in-law’s church, killing many people inside. The FBI got ahold of his phone, botched entry again, and, despite knowing that the man was a domestic abuser with a history of violent and loosely targeted attacks, not a terrorist with a network or help, the FBI is still insisting that the just need to get into the phone.

The FBI’s starting to sound like a child begging for an expensive toy they’ll likely break on Christmas Day: “But please, U.S. citizens, can we please violate your constitutional rights and privacy?”

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You Can be Sued for Blocking People on Twitter… if You’re the President

Some people hurt the president’s feelings and were blocked on Twitter. Turns out Donald Trump may have violated their first amendment rights by doing so. 

Say you’re the president of the United States (POTUS). You won the Electoral College election, but lost the popular vote by a wide margin. Most Americans do not want you to be the president of the United States. You don’t have any political experience, you have archaic social beliefs, you’re a poor orator, you’re violating the emoluments clause of the constitution, you’ve got suspicious ties to a foreign government, you’ve criticized freedom of the press, and perhaps worst of all, you’re quick to anger. What do you do if people start commenting on your Twitter posts in ways that contradict your statements with facts or mock your inexperience? You block them! That’s what you do if you’re @realDonaldTrump, you block the mean people saying true mean things about you. But the president of the United States needs to have a level mind and thick skin. They need to respond to criticisms, the voice of the people, in a dignified manner, not silence them. By shutting down a means of communication between the electorate and the public forum that Donald Trump himself set up willingly, Trump silenced voters. Turns out, that could be a violation of their First Amendment rights. 
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Trump Appointed FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai Announces His Plan to Destroy Net Neutrality, Internet Freedom

Ajit Pai. Credit: AP

What’s good for huge corporations is often bad for “the little guy,” that is, smaller businesses and individuals. However, the little guy, the individual, does have a way to piggyback off of the successes of those huge corporations. They can become lobbyists, politicians, or, in this case, the FCC Chairman. Pai graduated law school, worked on the Telecommunications Task Force, approving (or blocking) mergers and acquisitions, worked for the Department of Justice, and left government work for a time to be the Associate General Counsel at Verizon. He was only there two years before going back to government, where he’s been strongly pro-big business. 

That brings us to net neutrality. Net neutrality protects you and I from being gouged for our internet service any more than we already are. It forces all internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all data equally. Imagine if phone companies didn’t have to do that with who you talked to. They could notice you call your girlfriend a lot, and start charging your double for calls to her. Or perhaps they don’t want you talking to Comcast customer service for very long, forcing you to get frustrated and switch to their service. That’s what they have planned for the internet, fast and slow lanes, data that doesn’t count against limits for their own services or partners. It’s a way to gouge both other companies and end users, controlling the services we can use. Net neutrality protects small businesses from being pushed out of the market by these giant bullies like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and Time Warner (Spectrum). But net neutrality forbids these large corporations from taking advantage of their size for profit. That’s why they hate it. It’s why they lobby about it and push conservative politicians to fight against net neutrality and privacy. They’re against complete internet freedom, and we just elected their mouthpieces to the highest positions in government. 

That’s why Ajit Pai just released his plan to dismantle net neutrality this week, making internet freedom a thing of the past. 
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This Republican Senator Voted Away Your Online Privacy Rights Because He Doesn’t Believe You Need the Internet

Just because you don’t need something, doesn’t mean your privacy can be violated for using it. You don’t need any rights, after all. 

Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, of Wisconsin. Credit: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images.


If you took a psychology class in high school or college, you probably learned about something called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. These include the needs of humans, starting at the bottom, with the most basic needs, and going up into less vital needs. It starts with the basics, food, water, oxygen, and other physiological needs. Often, when someone is discussing needs, this is where people stop on the hierarchy. However, our actual hierarchy of needs goes on to safety, a sense of love or belonging, self esteem, and self actualization. Each step past the physiological step can, technically, be cut out, and a person will continue to live, but their life will be empty and meaningless. Perhaps that’s the kind of life Republican Representative of Wisconsin, Jim Sensenbrenner wants for his constituents and the rest of the country. According to him, your private information, everything you’ve ever done on the internet, can be sold because you don’t need the internet. 

If this isn’t a 21st century version of “Let them eat cake,” I don’t know what is. 
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Why You Should and Shouldn’t Have the Right to Repair

Yesterday, I wrote an article about Apple’s fight against ‘Right to Repair’ laws, which state that original equipment manufacturers have to make their repair techniques available and sell replacement parts and tools for repairing devices. Apple has an obvious goal here. Right now, they have a monopoly on the repair of nearly any device they sell. They’re even making Macs impossible to repair. But I found it curious. Across the web, numerous discussions and articles have popped up from regular consumers who supported Apple’s fight against right to repair laws. I stopped writing and speaking, and started reading and listening. This, I’ve found to be one of the more difficult–yet vital–parts of journalism. Shutting out your own ideas to learn about someone else’s and broadcast them as well. They raised some good and actually valid points. Here are some of those points, along with a rebuttal or compromise on each argument. I’ll let you decide who should have the right to decide who can repair your electronics. Do the owners of devices have a say, or can the creators of those devices dictate where people go and how they get repairs?
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Apple is Fighting ‘Right to Repair’ Laws

The inside of a 2016 MacBook Pro

Image credit: iFixit

When Donald Trump tried to ban Muslim immigrants from 7 countries from entering the United States, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, was quick to speak out against it. Apple was also there at Pride last year and the year before, holding their rainbow Apple banner high. Cook has stated that Apple will never become a place where discrimination is acceptable, no matter what the laws in the U.S. look like in a few years. However, there’s one place where they’re against consumers’ rights, and that’s the right to repair their equipment themselves or wherever they’d like. Apple wants to force users to come to them for repairs, and doesn’t want them upgrading their devices. Their extremely slim iOS devices, and Macs with soldered and glued parts are proof that, even if Apple doesn’t get to keep the right to force customers to come to them, they won’t easily or reasonably be able to do anything else with their devices anyway.
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Zero Rating is the Latest Net Neutrality Violation, and Trump’s FCC Allows It

Scott Stantis/Chicago Tribune

Zero rating may be a term you’re not used to hearing yet, but it’ll be the next great battle for proponents of an open and free internet and those who are against net neutrality, large corporations, our new president, and his FCC chairman, Ajit Pai. Zero rating is a new attack on net neutrality, which varies slightly than simply charging customers or companies for access to webpages at fair speeds. It’s the practice many large cellular service providers have begun using to entice customers to sign up for their services. AT&T owns DirecTV, so when you stream DirecTV on your AT&T plan, it’s “zero rated,” as in, it doesn’t count against your data caps. Verizon owns AOL and the go90 platform, so using services from those could be free, but accessing DirecTV on Verizon will cost data like it would anywhere else. Verizon even took this a step further, charging corporations for zero rated data. So if Netflix wants users to be allowed to continue streaming shows on Verizon for more than a few hours, they have to pay Verizon a hefty sum for zero rated data. 

Just like the standard violations of net neutrality we’re used to, zero rating hurts competition, aids in the creation of monopolies, benefits large corporations while hurting small business owners, and limits consumer choices. But is it something Americans want?
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