Why Companies Like Apple Should Not Give Government Backdoor Access to Encrypted Customer Data

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If you haven’t heard already, Apple has published an open letter explaining that the technology company will not be giving the U.S. Government access to their customer’s encrypted data. The government wants that data to use in law enforcement and anti-terrorism.

When the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it. Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as we have in the San Bernardino case. We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal.

We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

To good people who are concerned about making sure that the government has the tools it needs to convict criminals and stop terrorists, this looks like a reasonable request, and that Apple is making us less safe.

Let me explain why I think Apple is right and that the government is wrong. Continue reading

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LDS Conference October 1971- Spiritual and Secular Education in the Service of God

This is today’s post for the ongoing General Conference Odyssey project. My previous posts in this series can be found here. Posts by other bloggers writing about the October 1971 General Conference today are linked at the end of this post.  You can also visit the project group on Facebook.

Today we are writing about the Priesthood Session of the October 1971 Conference.


This session of conference included a number of interesting sermons.

It is the first session of conference to include a talk by Dallin H. Oaks, who was at the time the newly called president of Brigham Young University, and would later become a Justice of the Utah Supreme Court, and eventually one of the apostles of the church.

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It is not surprising that Elder Oaks spoke about education and the intersection of secular knowledge and spiritual knowledge. He contrasted the famous aphorism suggested by philosopher Thomas Hobbes, that “the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” with the teachings of the restored gospel that “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”

Elder Oaks emphasized that he was grateful to have been exposed to philosophies of men, like that of Hobbes, but he is also thankful that he was simultaneously being taught the truths of the gospel.

As the new President of BYU, he emphasized that he believed that it is wise to join spiritual and secular instruction: Continue reading

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LDS Conference October 1971- Sometimes You Have to Redo What You Thought Was Done

This is my latest installment to the ongoing General Conference Odyssey project. My previous posts in this series can be found here. Posts by other bloggers writing about the October 1971 General Conference today are linked at the end of this post.  You can also check out the project group on Facebook.

Today we are writing about the Saturday Afternoon Session of the October 1971 Conference.


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Today I want to highlight a few quotes that stood out to me from the speakers in the Saturday Afternoon Conference Session of October 1971.

In “Laying a Foundation for the Millennium,”Apostle LeGrand Richards shared a story about Brigham Young and the construction of the Salt Lake City Temple:

When the foundation was being laid, we are told that it was sixteen feet wide, and at one time President Brigham Young came and saw the workmen throwing in chipped granite. He made them take it out and put in those great granite blocks with this explanation: ‘We are building this temple to stand through the millennium.’ Isn’t that a good thought? Each one of us ought to want to build our lives and help our families to build their lives so that we can stand through the millennium.

Have you ever been working on a project and, when you are part way through, been told that you are doing it wrong and you have to undo what you have done and do it over? I certainly have, and it can be infuriating. I imagine that the men working on the temple might have felt a bit put out when President Young told them they were building the temple wrong and made them undo what they had done and redo it.

But if the temple was to stand until the 2nd coming of Christ and then a thousand years beyond, even what might have been considered “standard” practice or “up to code” would not be sufficient. Continue reading

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LDS Conference October 1971 – Cultural, Intellectual, and Spiritual Fads

This is this week’s contribution to the ongoing General Conference Odyssey project. My previous posts in this series can be found here.  You can also check out the project group on Facebook.

Posts by other bloggers writing about the October 1971 General Conference today are linked at the end of this post.

Today we are writing about the Saturday Morning Session of the October 1971 Conference.


There were only four speakers in the Saturday morning session of conference in October 1971, three of whom were Apostles. One interesting theme raised by both President Harold B. Lee and Elder Theodore M. Burton, as assistant to the Twelve, was the secularization of organized religion.

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In his talk, “Watch, That Ye May Be Ready,” President Lee quoted from the nationally syndicated newspaper column by Max Rafferty, who was an educator, politician, and commentator:

Never, it seems, has there ever been more unmistakable evidence of a need for spiritual guidance, as we met throughout our visits in these countries those who are seeking for answers to problems that confront them on every side. We have sensed that everywhere there is much dissatisfaction with the churches to which they have belonged. The real reason for this decline seems to stem from the fact, as one columnist has summarized it, ‘organized religion isn’t being attacked. It’s busily committing suicide trying to keep up with [the] Jane Fonda and Timothy Leary’ type of relevance which would ‘tune out that corny old Bible, split out of that moldy church and turn on with relevance!’ 

Today, if they think of her at all, many people think of Jane Fonda primarily as an Academy Award winning actress. In October 1971, she was already a movie star, but she was also known for her counterculture political activism. She would win her first Oscar and make her infamous (some would say treasonous) visit to North Vietnam within a year of being mentioned in conference. Continue reading

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A Wrested Development – Mourning with Those That Mourn as a Rhetorical Weapon

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“Piano” by Björn Perborg

In an excellent discourse given in the October 1971 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Boyd. K Packer of the Twelve Apostles compared the restored gospel to a piano:

The gospel might be likened to the keyboard of a piano—a full keyboard with a selection of keys on which one who is trained can play a variety without limits; a ballad to express love, a march to rally, a melody to soothe, and a hymn to inspire; an endless variety to suit every mood and satisfy every need.

How shortsighted it is, then, to choose a single key and endlessly tap out the monotony of a single note, or even two or three notes, when the full keyboard of limitless harmony can be played.

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It is not unusual to find people who take an interest in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but give only casual attention to the ideal that the fullness of the gospel is here.

They become attracted by a single key, a doctrine, often one to which they take immediate exception and object to. They investigate it by itself alone. They want to know all there is about it without reference, in fact, with specific objection and rejection, to anything else.

They want to hear that key played over and over again. It will give them little knowledge unless they see that there is a fullness—other complementary ideals and doctrines that present a warmth and a harmony, and a fullness, that draw at the right moment upon each key, which if played alone might seem discordant.

Now that danger is not limited to investigators alone. Some members of the Church who should know better pick out a hobby key or two and tap them incessantly, to the irritation of those around them. They can dull their own spiritual sensitivities. They lose track that there is a fullness of the gospel and become as individuals, like many churches have become. They may reject the fullness in preference to a favorite note. This becomes exaggerated and distorted, leading them away into apostasy.

This concept was reiterated in 1992 by Apostle Dallin H. Oaks who quoted Elder Packer and warned members of the church about various ways in which our strengths can become weaknesses. Elder Oaks also warned about a similar problem:

A related distortion is seen in the practice of those who select a few sentences from the teachings of a prophet and use them to support their political agenda or other personal purposes. In doing so, they typically ignore the contrary implications of other prophetic words, or even the clear example of the prophet’s own actions.

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We should interpret their words in the light of their works. To wrest the words of a prophet to support a private agenda, political or financial or otherwise, is to try to manipulate the prophet, not to follow him.

Elder Oaks’ essay has long been one of my favorites, and is worth reading in full. It was recently cited as an additional resource in the church’s January 3rd statement responding to media inquiries about the occupation of a federal facility in Oregon by citizens who were protesting federal government abuse, some of whom were members of the church.

However, instead of discussing how these principles apply to the tragic events in Oregon, I want to explore how these warnings from Elder Packer and Elder Oaks apply to a different trend I have noticed:

Among some vocal members of the church, there is a growing tendency to employ the phrase “mourn with those that mourn” as a rhetorical weapon.  Continue reading

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