John Oliver warns of the consequences of broken encryption amid the FBI’s fight with Apple

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John Oliver broke down the debate between Apple and the FBI in the latest episode of Last Week Tonight. Apple recently refused to follow an order by the FBI to build a backdoor to bypass the iPhone security code of Syed Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters. Many politicians stand with the FBI because they believe it is a straight-forward debate over terrorism. Donald Trump has even called for a boycott of Apple. And Oliver can’t help but see the appeal. “This is a rare case where Donald Trump’s outrage is almost understandable, because Apple’s refusal to help crack a terrorist’s phone can seem hard to defend, especially when…you think about it incredibly simplistically,” he says, showing a clip of John Miller of the NYPD asserting that any safe, vault, or door can be opened by a lawful order from a U.S. court.

“But this is not simple — it’s a hugely complicated story with massive implications, and once we get to the end of it, you may not feel the same way you do now.” That is because opening a safe opens that one safe, while opening an iPhone may lead to hackers opening millions of iPhones. Once you open a backdoor to the iPhone, it cannot be easily closed. And the FBI will surely want to use it again. “Think of the government as your dad,” Oliver says. “If he asks you to help him with his iPhone, be careful. Because if you do it once, you’re going to be doing it 14 times a day.” But the FBI is not the only agency that would want this backdoor. “Many countries around the world, including Russia and China, are watching this debate, and will presumably expect similar access — because, as you know, Russia and China have as much respect for privacy as horny teenagers in ’80s comedies.”

This is not any easy debate, because of the terrorist implications, but the ramifications are much greater than that one incident. “Strong encryption has its costs, from protecting terrorists to drug dealers to child pornographers,” Oliver acknowledges. “But I happen to feel that the risks of weakening encryption, even a little bit, even just for the government, are potentially much worse.” Because as Oliver points out, encryption will always be available to those who want it. There are currently hundreds of encryption apps available for the iPhone. So, breaking the iPhone’s encryption will only serve to weaken security for everyday Americans. Watch the clip to see a more honest Apple commercial that displays the limitations of their security team.

Watch Seth Meyers and Trevor Noah discuss the Apple-FBI showdown.

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