The land that kills its tinkers

"While some proponents of both have laudable goals–protecting the intellectual property of innovators and building intelligence that can save lives–the dangers posed by each are significant.

Technologists have warned about both at length. Jennifer Granick, for example, described in excellent detail the risk of creating a world in which black boxes make life-and-death decisions that cannot be reliably audited. Apple and others have described the risk of backdoor exploits being obtained and abused by criminals.

Just as important as the debates about the policies themselves, though, is the way in which they are carried out against even the most innocuous of rulebreakers. Aaron Swartz became practically a martyr, and while his case was in some ways extreme, the overarching dynamic of his case was all too familiar to many people in the technical community.

And while this is sad on a human level alone, that attitude and the policies, prosecutions, and laws it supports are now actively dangerous to the security of the country. Demonizing tinkering and creating an environment toxic to curiosity discourages and ostracizes the exact sort of people we now rely upon to capably protect us. Here is a sample of some quotes from security industry figures:

  •  Jeremiah Grossman: “If the end result of Apple v. FBI are laws mandating backdoors, all of the work we do in InfoSec suddenly becomes irrelevant.”
  • Christopher Soghoian: “Why should every American have the ability to talk & text privately with tools that thwart lawful FBI wiretaps? Two words: President Trump.”
  • Jennifer Granick: “Today is the anniversary of @aaronsw’s death. Still no #CFAA reform. Still too much copyright for too long.”"