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Monday, 22 February 2016 10:48

Apple v FBI: Brandis has not learnt from his metadata screw-up Featured

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Australia's attorney-general George Henry Brandis is a man who knows very little about technology. Being an educated individual — at least going by his CV — one would thus assume that he would steer clear of areas that are bound to embarrass him. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the current Apple v FBI situation.

Alas, Brandis, who is best known for being unable to explain the term "metadata", does not fear emulating Don Quixote. Like the man from La Mancha, he rushes headlong into conflict and flails blindly around only to end up with egg on his face.

Like many ministers and politicians in Australia, Brandis also never misses a chance to act as a lapdog for the US government. It is somewhat shameful for Australians to see an officer of their sovereign government with his tongue hanging out in this manner – but then they never picked the man for the job.

Over the last week, Brandis —who is also known for spending enormous amounts of taxpayer money on bookshelves for his personal abode — once again came forth with foolish comments on an issue of which he knows little and understands even less.

When Apple chief executive Tim Cook declared on Wednesday that the company he heads would not be obeying a court order to create what is effectively a backdoor into its mobile operating system, iOS, Brandis decided that the time was right for a bit of sycophancy.

And so George thundered forth to the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation: "We would expect, as in Australia, that all orders of courts should be obeyed by any party which is the subject of a lawful order by a court."

And, for good measure, he added: "Frankly, if data is encrypted in a way that is entirely inaccessible, without the co-operation of the ISP or the maker of the device, then that makes inaccessible relevant investigative information that would hitherto have been accessible and that's a problem for law enforcement."

Now let's look at a few facts. Try as it might, the US government has been unable to come up with even a skerrick of evidence that mass surveillance of its populace has helped to curb terrorism. Brandis knows this. Or he should.

And in the Apple-FBI case, Apple has been helping the FBI since January in its bid to access the data on an iPhone which was being used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the terrorists involved in an attack in San Bernardino last December in which 14 people were killed.

Brandis does not seem to be aware of this. Yet he opens his big mouth and spouts.

Given all the evidence that has come to light since Tuesday last week, if Apple is forced to obey this court order, then the US justice system will be the laughing stock of even Zimbabwe.

Brandis, a lawyer, an alumnus of the University of Queensland and Magdalen College, Oxford, and a man who says that people have the right to be bigots, would also be in the same category.

Truly did the great Mark Twain say that, when ignorance was conjoined with confidence, then success was assured.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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