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On Encryption: There Are No Locks Only ‘Angels’ Can Open

Despite the FBI dropping its case against Apple over whether or not the tech giant should supply the government agency with the ability to hack into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, the argument over how our devices — especially our phones — should be encrypted continues to rage on. And regardless of how you feel about the issue, almost everybody agrees that the debate can be pretty murky, as privacy vs. protection debates usually are. To make the whole argument a lot easier to digest however, we have one of the web’s best educators and entertainers, CGP Grey, who has broken it all down in one clear five-minute video.

The video, posted above, parallels physical locks with digital “locks” (encryption), noting how they relate and how they differ in order to help us better understand the encryption debate. And one of the most important points that Grey makes about digital locks is that they need to work not only against local threats, but threats from across the globe — threats coming from “internet burglars” and their “burglar bots.”

Grey touches on the scenario in which a bad guy with an armed bomb dies, leaving behind only an encrypted phone with the code to stop the bomb. In this particular case — a parallel to the San Bernardino shooter case, as there may have been information regarding further threats on his encrypted phone — Grey points out that this may be a time when we’d want the police to have access, or a “backdoor,” to the phone. But if companies were forced to build backdoors into their products so government agencies could use them for situations like these, could we trust authorities not to abuse their powers? Could we trust that “demons” (people with bad intentions) wouldn’t hijack the backdoors?

Grey argues that we couldn’t, saying that “there’s no way to build a digital lock that only angels can open and demons cannot.”

There’s also a bonus “footnote” video (below) in which Grey discusses just how intimate the data on our phones has become (do you remember where you were on April 8th at 6:02AM? No? Your phone does).

What do you think about CGP Grey’s breakdown of the encryption debate? Unlock your opinions in the comments below!

Images: CGP Grey

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