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NYPD hijacks #UnlockJustice to bash encryption, but its hashtag gets hijacked

Apr 19, 20163 mins
AppleData and Information SecurityMobile

Coalition launches social media campaign criticizing encryption, and encryption supporters take it over

A coalition, including the New York Police Department and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, launched an anti-encryption campaign along with a hashtag of #UnlockJustice because “crime victims are entitled to stronger protections than criminals.”

“The debate over encryption is often referred to in terms of privacy and security, with little regard for the impact on crime victims,” the press release stated. The Manhattan DA complained about the 230 inaccessible Apple devices running iOS 8 or higher that it can’t unlock and how unfair encryption and “warrant-proof” devices are to crime victims. Companies, according to Vance, should not be permitted “to provide criminals with unprecedented, evidence-free zones.”

Vance said:

Americans have a right to privacy, but crime victims and surviving family members have rights too—namely, the right to have cases solved with the strongest evidence available. Juries don’t just expect that—they demand it, and evidence that used to reside in file cabinets, closets and safes is today stored on smartphones.

As Motherboard pointed out, instead of gaining support in social media, encryption supporters immediately took over the #UnlockJustice social media campaign. Even while writing this, the pro-encryption tweets using that hashtag are pouring in; most are so delightful that I suggest you read some.

It could be that the NYPD person behind the #UnlockJustice hashtag, which incidentally was hijacked from the Friends Committee on National Legislation, is actually for encryption and knew the NYPD would be bashed for it. Then again, probably not.

End-to-end encryption coming to Viber

Meanwhile Viber is rolling out end-to-end encryption, starting in Brazil, Belarus, Israel and Thailand before rolling out globally. The messaging app will use different color-coded lock icons to show different levels of security, according to TechCrunch. Fully encrypted voice or text conversations will display a gray lock. A green lock is an option if you wish to authenticate users before every conversation or “to continually monitor them to make sure the users are verified.” A red lock basically means red alert, such as a man-in-the-middle attack, and to re-authenticate.

Crypto guru Matthew Green believes the FBI’s war on encryption will backfire spectacularly, and we should expect everyone to deploy end-to-end encryption this year. We may finally be “past a tipping point.”

Polled voters support encryption, not backdoors

Despite what the NYPD and Manhattan DA’s office believe, recently polled (pdf) voters responded overwhelmingly in support of encryption.

Additionally, 88 percent of polled voters agreed that a backdoor in encryption could be misused, and 86 percent agreed that “adding backdoors that allow anyone to get around privacy and security has the potential to create additional threats from criminals and terrorists.”

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.