Apple & FBI Heading Back to Congress to Debate Encryption

When Apple and the FBI first appeared in front of congress the debate was if Apple could be ordered to unlock an iPhone, and if so should they then create a method where they could easily access future devices for law enforcement? While the case revolving around the San Bernardino phone is over, with the FBI gaining access with help from an external group, the debate is still far from over with both the FBI and Apple looking to appear before a congressional committee to debate encryption yet again.

The debate over encryption will see several people join the committee as witnesses, including Bruce Sewell (General Counsel, Apple Inc), Amy Hess (Executive Assistance Directory for Science and Technology, FBI) and Amit Yoran (President, RSA Security). Other witnesses include Ron Hickman representing the National Sheriffs Association and two police officers, Captain Charles Cohen and Chief Thomas Galati (Indiana state police and New York City Police respectively). With two university representatives Daniel Weitzner (MIT) and Matthew Blaze (University of Pennsylvania) appearing as well, it would appear that congress want to hear the debate from research, implementation and law enforcements points of views in an attempt to fully understand the debate that is raging on in countries all over the world about privacy vs protection.

With countries all over looking to this court case as an example of how technology has advanced while the law remains unclear, the congressional hearing could have a big impact on companies throughout America. The hearing will take place on April 19th and will be streamed on their site for ease of access.

Proposed “Online Safety Bill” Being Debated In the House Of Lords

Guess whose back? Indeed after a short hiatus I am back and raring to be creative concerning my written articles for eTeknix, although, in reality it has only been around 6 weeks since my last piece. So, what to write? I know, let’s delve into the proposed “Online Safety Bill” which is currently being debated in the UK courtesy of the House of Lords.

According to reports on the government’s own Parliament website, the bill is being debated at the “1st sitting committee stage” and proposes a law to compel “internet service providers and mobile phone operators to provide an internet service that excludes adult content” This includes provisions to offer strict and compulsory age verification checks to NSFW sites and also a role for Ofcom. There are also proposals to educate parents through digital on demand programme services and a licensing scheme for such websites.

It will be interesting to see how the debate develops and also the challenges of implementing such a law, after all, ISPs will first have to define what constitutes an “adult” website before blocking it to individuals who are under the age of 18. A further interesting angle is the proposal to “require electronic device manufacturers to provide a means of filtering internet content”.

Logically these proposals are unworkable and may in all probability be circumvented by various tech means; there is also the question of legitimate and educational sites that might fall under the banner of such a law. Another aspect which could cause concern is the proposed age verification checks, the only way this could be implemented is for a mechanism to be introduced to verify consumers through official identification without it being intercepted by hackers and a myriad of external cyber threats.

Image courtesy of echo

SXSW Gaming Events Cancelled After ‘Threats Of Violence’

Well this is a mess but here goes, two gaming events have been cancelled at the South-by-Southwest (SXSW) festival that is due to take place next year (March 2016), after organisers confirmed they have become victim to continuous threats of violence which includes a direct message of the potential for violent behaviour “on site”.

At first, the content of the discussion panels seem compelling and rather innocuous considering the alleged reaction, the first was coined “SavePoint: A discussion on the Gaming community” while the other was named “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games”  The former was there to primarily analyse the social and political landscape within the ever-changing and diverse gaming community as well as a closer look at the journalistic integrity of gaming journalists themselves; the latter was focussed on data around abuse in larger gaming communities as well as other related topics.

Sounds interesting right? Indeed, the reason this has somewhat blown up in the organisers faces is down to the panels referring to the madness known as “GamerGate” neither panel was officially linked to this subject but did intend to discuss issues associated with both sides of the row. SavePoint was due to feature prominent GamerGate supporters while Level up was likely to feature an argument, sorry discussion against Harassment in games and I would have thought GamerGate would have come up at some point.

So that’s it, no, supporters of the GamerGate campaign suggest that they themselves have been the victim of “abuse after they tried to highlight conflicts of interest in the video games industry. The organisers of SavePoint have announced that they will go ahead with plans to host a panel discussion themselves and will do so by other means.

To add to the complications, media organisation BuzzFeed has threatened to boycott SXSW unless the festival reinstated both parties, which looks unlikely at this time considering both panels are fearful of their safety. Buzzfeed released a statement that reads as follows,

“We will feel compelled to withdraw [our staff] if the conference can’t find a way to do what those other targets of harassment do every day – to carry on important conversations in the face of harassment. We hope you can support the principle of free speech and engage a vital issue facing us and other constituents on the event.”

I have always felt rather non plus with the ideology of threats of violence, granted, if you received one then you are well within your rights to take it with the utmost of seriousness, but, if someone intended to hit you, they probably would not warn you that they intended to do so in the first place, it rather defeats the point. It’s a tough one, free speech should be the number one focus, but, free speech itself does not mean you can say what you want if there is a chance that it could cause major offence.

It does seem silly though that two gaming events have been cancelled because it has caused this reaction, can’t people debate like adults and others listen with respect like adults without the need for threats?