By Melissa Locker
March 14, 2016

 

This week Last Week Tonight tackles encryption, or as John Oliver calls, it, “The best way to keep people from reading your email short of making the subject line ‘Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Hilarious Joke From Uncle Walter’.”

The high-tech issue of encryption has been in the headlines lately as the FBI has taken Apple to court to demand they crack the iPhone security features so the FBI can continue their investigation into the tragic San Bernardino shooting. While it sounds like a cut-and-dry case, as Oliver notes, it’s actually a “hugely complicated” story.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that creating a so-called Master Key that bypasses security features is out of the question, as it would make all iPhone users vulnerable to attack by hackers, cybercriminals and authoritarian regimes that would also like access to people’s private iPhones. As Oliver notes, if Apple capitulates to U.S. demands, it’s likely that China and Russia would demand similar access and, as Oliver says, “Russia and China have as much respect for privacy as horny teenagers in ’80s comedies.”

Apple is also concerned that if they give in to one request, they will be inundated with encryption-cracking requests from law enforcement around the world. “Think of the government like your dad,” says Oliver. “If he asks you to help him with his iPhone, be careful. If you do it once, you’re going to be doing it 14 times a day.”

In short, it’s not quite like “giving a house key to a trusted neighbor,” but a complex issue with wide-reaching ramifications. Luckily Oliver crafted a very helpful Apple ad to explain it all.

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