The Dumbest Op-Ed of the Year

The UK's Telegraph has published what is certainly the year's most ignorant and dishonest op-ed. Clare Foges, until recently PM David Cameron's chief speechwriter, weighs in on the encryption wars and calls out Apple and Google for putting profit before public safety.

The dishonesty of the article starts with the Telegraph's failure to mention that fact that Foges is Cameron's ex-speechwriter. That fact, ipso facto, doesn't affect the validity of her arguments but honest articles always mention such connections so that readers can evaluate the writer's preconceptions and vested interests.

The ignorance lays over the entire piece smothering it with a thick coat of fail. The worst bit of ignorance is her insistence that Apple and the others could, if they wanted, provide a safe “back door” but don't do so because they're more interested in profit. Left unsaid, is the fact that every knowledgeable cryptographer agrees that it can't be done. That includes cryptographers who are independent of the commercial sector and can't be said to have a profit motive.

To me, the most infuriating part of the op-ed is Foges' failure to see government's culpability in what she sees as a crisis. Before Snowden—yes, really, it's all his fault—the government could get a warrant and the bad guys were caught. Even accepting that fairy tale, that's not what was going on. Instead, government abused terms, used secret courts, and questionable interpretations of laws to snoop on everyone's communications. They did that because they wouldn't have been able to get legitimate warrants.

Trust us, Foges says, but the government has repeatedly lied and abused the powers we gave it. Why in the world would we trust it? Now, when people fight back and demand to be left alone in the absence of reasonable evidence of wrong doing, the government whines that we want Isis to win and that Apple, Google, and other tech companies care only about filthy lucre and are willing to sell out the public's safety to get it.

The op-ed, as I said, is full of errors. Rather than list them here, I'll point you to this righteous takedown from Techdirt. It's a thorough fisking of an article that is almost too dumb to merit the effort.

UPDATE: be → we

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  • Wait. If you can't trust the government with your encryption, can you trust it with your health care, or much of anything else?

    • jcs

      Oddly, I usually think of it the other way around. Why would you trust the government with your encryption given their performance in other areas?

      • Also a good formulation.

  • contrapunctus0

    "Why in the world would be trust it?" - be -> we ?

    • jcs

      Yup. Fixed. Thanks.