There are basically two groups of large software companies around right now: those which make their business by collecting data, and those which make their business by licensing software. The first group has an overwhelming incentive to not support privacy too strongly. The second group has an overwhelming incentive to not allow too much openness. Until a better business model (or zero-knowledge machine learning) is found, no large for profit company can support both goals to their final conclusion. So we are left choosing one evil or the other.
Apple published a “message to customers” today, and while there’s a lot of questions this letter raises,1 the above HN comment (full thread, definitely worth reading) captures the essence of the issue at hand when it comes to computing these days. You either sell software/hardware/licenses and create incentive for the general public to pay you more money by selling things, or you give stuff away for free, and your users become the product. It appears that the situation didn’t really change much for the last couple of years, and in the end we choose what we are willing to tolerate.
update, Feb 22: Apple published some more details about the case today.
- What kind of backdoor does Tim Cook have in mind exactly? If it could be implemented, then how? Are other companies complying with such requests from the FBI or other agencies (wikileaks and Edward clearly point to some evidence that they do)? ↩