Video: John Oliver's 'Last Week Tonight' sides with Apple in encryption debate

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On the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver summarized the ongoing battle between Apple and the FBI over encryption, ultimately backing Apple's position on the matter.

Oliver first explained both the nature of encryption, and why U.S. government agencies would want a backdoor, such as the iOS passcode limit tool demanded by the FBI. Key to this is the idea that strong encryption is causing the Internet to "go dark," putting some communications beyond the reach of law enforcement and spy agencies, even when a legitimate warrant is issued.

The comedian attempted to undermine the government's position in a number of ways, for instance referring to the "Clipper Chip" proposed in the 1990s. That might have theoretically allowed agencies to access a computer's data when needed while otherwise leaving it secure, but a hacker, Matt Blaze, demonstrated how to disable the technology.

Oliver also noted that there are now a wide number of encrypted messaging apps, many of which are by developers outside U.S. jurisdiction, and that Apple's platforms are constantly under attack by hackers in a situation which could be made worse if its security is deliberately weakened.

He also attacked the legal underpinnings of the FBI's case, and noted the possibility of it setting precedent not just in the U.S. but overseas in places like Russia and China, where governments regularly intrude into private data to silence dissent.

The segment concluded with a spoof of Apple's TV ads for the iPhone 6s, arguing that the company has enough trouble keeping up with basic problems — like battery life — without bringing security into the picture.

Apple and the Department of Justice are due to attend a court hearing on March 22, when the order asking Apple to help unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook will be reviewed.


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