Conspiracy theorists, get ready for some intriguing news that might have you saying, “I knew it.” Former NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker said at Web Summit in Dublin, that expanded encryption efforts by tech companies like Apple and Google do more to harm U.S. intelligence than they do to defend against wrongful and excessive surveillance worldwide.
Speaking with the Guardian’s James Ball, Mr. Baker proceeded to explain how encryption is bad for business and gave BlackBerry as an example. “The state department has funded some of these tools, such as Tor, which has been used in Arab Spring revolutions or to get past the Chinese firewall, but these crypto wars are mainly being fought between the American government and American companies. … Blackberry [sic] pioneered the same business model that Google and Apple are doing now—that has not ended well for Blackberry,” said Baker.
Though, at first Baker’s argument is related to the enterprise market. He says that BlackBerry was likely a hard sell in countries like India, Russia, and China where employers do not want to be completely locked out of their employees’ communications. But then, Baker alludes to a more behind-the-scenes fight with the NSA:
“Tech companies are picking a big public fight with the NSA because it looks good, as opposed to changing the ability of government to get data,” Baker said. “The crypto wars have about as much to do with the outcome of security as the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939 had to do with the outcome of WW2.” (The crypto wars involve private individuals and organizations attempting to implement secure encryption while governments work to undermine this encrypton or demand backdoors.)
BlackBerry certainly has had its own faults over the last few years, which aided in its general decline. However, having one of the most secure, encrypted mobile solutions wouldn’t seem to be the primary reason. Then again, maybe Baker knows something we don’t about what happens to companies that don’t give the NSA a backdoor into their user data.