What Comes First the Safety or the Privacy? Could Putting Backdoors In Social Media Apps Be Worse Than Not Knowing

“We spend our time searching for security and hate it when we get it.” — John Steinbeck

Cyber Security is going to be the talk of the town for the foreseeable future, and with the news coming from the EU that they are working on temporary solutions to create a backdoor entry for police forces and governmental agencies with appropriate cause to access encrypted communications on social media apps, like Facebook’s WhatsApp. These temporary, voluntary solutions are sprouting up conversations in governments all over the world, because for many like the EU — any long term legislation is still years away from existing.

In the US, we are only one year removed from the Department of Justice’s legal battle against Apple over what the DoJ believed to be Apple’s implicit responsibility, as a US corporation to unlock and unencrypt the phone of the San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. Upon Apple’s refusal to risk their credibility as a safe and secure company to rely on to relay your messages privately, the DoJ sought out and hired a third-party to hack into the phone using what are now, “classified exploits” and have helped propel the conversation of encryption and personal privacy online to center stage. 
Are stricter regulations on relaxing encryptions the future of cyber security or should companies stand firm in providing more and more encryption features in their products? Up until recently, companies never worried much about cyber security, because consumers did not worry much about such features. However, with all these shifts in data exploitation, while more of a person’s personal information gets uploaded to clouds and third party apps — The future of social media and digital media depends on cyber security as a foundation. To force backdoors in systems and to hire third parties to hack into systems might give DEF CON® Hacking Conference’s some exciting content, but it has the very real potential of becoming the Achilles heel that topples leaders in their industries, because no longer can they guarantee privacy and security of your information.

On the other side, these encrypted apps and social media platforms have created networks for people to plot deadly campaigns, including more recently the terrorist attacks in London (which has refueled this international debate) — and Facebook Live stuck now in a quicksand issue of deadly and violent conduct taking place on their platform. Does it become the global responsibility of these companies to indoctrinate their consumers with a Terms & Services that reflects a Patriot Act Lite version, or do they strong-arm until governments send warrants and fines their way to give up certain information. It’s a double-edged sword for the biggest social media companies out there, and it is a new issue every new start-up has to consider before going into this space. To pry or not to pry — that is the question.

— JCL

Works Cited
Baldwin, Roberto. “Apple’s Encryption Battle with the FBI Is Over, for Now.” Engadget. N.p., 14 July 2016. Web. 05 May 2017.
Walker, Dale. “EU Wants to Create Backdoors to Encrypted Social Media Apps.” IT PRO. N.p., 30 Mar. 1970. Web. 05 May 2017.