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FBI Chief’s Soft Stance on Encryption Needs Deciphering

Speaking at the American Bar Association’s annual conference in San Francisco this Friday, the FBI chief James Comey said that the agency is collecting data to present next year in hopes of sparking a national conversation about law enforcement’s stance on encryption.
James Comey said that that the agency was unable to access 650 of 5,000 electronic devices, associated with one crime or another, over the past 10 months. He said that the problem is only going to get worse without a relevant discussion on encryption technology.

fbi chief regarding encryption
He said that the encryption technology is making it impossible for the agency to search electronic devices in a growing number of criminal cases. He stated further that it’s up to the US citizens, rather than the FBI or government officials, to decide whether to modify the technology to help law enforcement access the devices.
However, this somewhat soft stance seems incredibly fishy considering what the agency is cooking up in the back. The agency has already created a database, dubbed as the ‘pilot program’ of over 430,000 iris scans in the past few years. The agency is further developing and updating its facial recognition technology to spy over and recognize citizens from around the state.
According to reports, this facial recognition technology is incredibly accurate, even if it has only 2 or 3 images of the person it’s searching on in its database. The present facial recognition technology is good enough to recognize you from any of your Instagram or Facebook images.
Considering the number of images floating on the internet, the facial recognition technology has undoubtedly become one of the biggest threats to our privacy. By itself, the ability to instantly identify anyone just by seeing their face already creates massive power imbalances, with serious implications to the freedom of speech and political unrest.

“From a privacy perspective, the results presented here should raise concern,” experts write. “It is very probable that undisclosed systems similar to the ones described here already operate online. We believe it is the responsibility of the computer vision community to quantify, and disseminate the privacy implications of the images users share online.”

Instead of conversing over safety vs. encryption, a war which it has already lost, the FBI should rather reveal whatever technology it is cooking up in its backyard.

Shahek Raza
Shahek Raza
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