2015 EPIC Champions of Freedom Dinner

Monday night, EPIC—that’s the Electronic Privacy Information Center—had its annual Champions of Freedom Dinner. I tell you this for two reasons. One, I received a Lifetime Achievement Award. (I was incredibly honored to receive this, and I thank EPIC profusely.) And two, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook received a Champion of Freedom Award. His acceptance speech, delivered remotely, was amazing.

Posted on June 3, 2015 at 4:27 PM30 Comments


rgaff June 3, 2015 4:48 PM

Since Tim Cook is so pro privacy and encryption, exactly when will Apple be switching all of its cloud based services to a “zero knowledge” “end to end encrypted even while at rest” kind of technology, where Apple cannot access any of it any longer?

His words ring hollow until his actions prove it.

Sofakinbd June 3, 2015 5:22 PM

What more do you want:

EFF did the ranking.


FaceTime and iMessage are:

You say “all” meaning Photos/Documents etc.?

I understand Bruce was doubtful a while back:

I ask because as far as I’m aware Apple is doing pretty good overall, although I get that “good enough” is not a high standard

rgaff June 3, 2015 5:37 PM

I am speaking specifically of, for example:

When I do cloud storage, and back a few items up, then pull them down to another computer… doesn’t Apple have full access to it? They shouldn’t! It should be encrypted in such a way that they cannot get access to it even if the court did subpoena them for it! The court should have to subpoena ME for it directly, not THEM. It’s MY data, after all, not Apple’s. Why is Apple involved here?

When I write personal seemingly private notes on my ipad… and then… a little while later I notice that note is on my iphone. I didn’t put it there. Apple must have put it there, through its cloud storage. How convenient…. BUT… weren’t they able to read it and share it with every freaking government agency on the way? The fact that they respect and work with law enforcement is not comforting when they have this access and law enforcement flouts the constitution and internationally recognized human rights and common moral decency!

When Tim Cook fixes these and all other such similar issues, and does it in an open and verifiable way that we can all see he really did it, only THEN can we see that he means what he says… Until then, it’s a fluff piece… and worse than that, it’s a ridiculous outright LIE if he refuses to actually fix these kinds of problems!

Now I can fully understand if it takes a while for the wheels to turn, even moreso to change directions. But after trust is broken, it equally takes a while and lots of work to regain it, I’m sure he understands this too. So there’s the bar, he needs to measure up.

rgaff June 3, 2015 5:57 PM


facetime and imessage sound good, yes… but Apple does a lot more cloud based things than just facetime and imessage. Also, they need to do facetime and imessage in a way that can be publicly verifiable that it’s doing what they claim it to be doing (this is not necessarily the same as being open source).

I specifically wrote some fairly personal private notes on my ipad! I was horrified to realize that the NSA had full access to them, and I could never for the rest of time recall them, as soon as I saw them show up on my iphone! I know that it comes down to “if you don’t want the NSA to read it, don’t let it touch any electronic device” but it SHOULD NOT BE THIS WAY… and WE SHOULD NOT BE SATISFIED that it is! Fix it, Tim Cook.

Also, ranking it ahead of blackberry/google/facebook/microsoft isn’t saying much, when they OPENLY SHARE IT ALL WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT OMG! In fact, Skype USED to be end-to-end encrypted and good, and Microsoft re-engineered it and broke it so they could attack it in the middle JUST FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT when they took it over!! What the heck? This is the epitome of everything that’s wrong with the world! You don’t have to do much to be way ahead of that! Even half-assed trying with grandiose speeches but possibly terrible crypto implementations is better than them (but still not good enough!)

EFF tries to be somewhat diplomatic so as not to antagonize the entire industry… that’s fine. I’m personally under no such constraints. Fix your crap, Tim Cook, or get your speeches away from me, they’re offensive! When you do this, I’ll change my tune. Promise.

dbm June 3, 2015 6:58 PM

I agree with rgaff on desires for encryption. But there are at least three reasons, I can think of, for the sluggish response from cloud providers:

  1. probably most important – by having access to your interesting information, they can make money by selling this info to marketers;

  2. if they had to store encrypted info, they could not economize their storage needs, since there could be no effective compression of the large pool of user data. Cloud storage costs would probably exceed what they can make from part (1); and

  3. the laws of responsibility of a cloud provider are still uncertain and in flux – see Dread Pirate Roberts decision.

Ben R June 3, 2015 7:31 PM

  1. If an average customer forgets his password, and contacts customer support, and learns that there’s nothing they can do and his data is lost forever unless he remembers the password, he is not going to be happy. (Unless his password was weak enough to be brute-forced, in which case it was useless anyway.)

rgaff June 3, 2015 8:13 PM


  1. ah yes, but this is the very thing Tim Cook claims he is against, is selling our data for profit. So… obviously he just needs to put his money where his mouth is. Otherwise I can’t trust him, and it appears like lies.

  2. You just compress it before encryption and the problem is mostly solved. You want to do this anyway, because you don’t want to waste bandwidth when you’re transmitting it to the server. The only case where that doesn’t fully solve it, is when doing a full system disk and operating system backup (many people’s backups would then share some of the same data), but that’s so slow and kind of a waste anyway, I’d rather just cloud backup my unique data right now anyway. Give me a faster local backup for full backups, they’re not that expensive. The main benefit of cloud over local is that cloud stuff can be copied back to multiple computers and even architectures or operating systems around the world, whereas a full system disk and operating system backup doesn’t benefit from this as much anyway.

  3. The laws are not that much in flux… If Apple stores my data, IT IS NOT MY DATA AT ALL according to the law. It’s FULLY AND 100% APPLE’S DATA! I have no rights to it whatsoever. This is immoral. The law is wrong. But that’s the law. If Apple stores my data, but it’s this encrypted blob of stuff they can’t crack, well, here government, here’s the blob, good luck with it! Have fun. That’s all the law requires of them. Then the government has to come after me personally to crack it, if it’s done right. This is the way it should be. They should be coming after me personally when they’re coming after me! At least then if they’re doing it unjustly I have a chance to hire a lawyer and (try to) fight them! There is currently no law that outlaws proper encryption, and I don’t see one on the horizon soon in the USA. Some other draconian even-more-dark-ages-like countries are trying to do that, however (looking at you UK). If it happens, I would simply cease offering affected services in such countries, if it were me. Let them stew in their stupid effective ban of all electronically-assisted commerce until they wake up. They’re only shooting themselves in the heart.

rgaff June 3, 2015 8:23 PM

  1. If an average customer forgets his own computer’s login password, and contacts customer support, there’s already nothing that can be done about it to retrieve that password. Yet I don’t see customers stampeding to their friendly local government agent to give him all their passwords as a backup just in case they forget them (and also so he can freely spy on everything too, just to make SURE they don’t go 1 mile over the limit or whatever). So I don’t think this argument matters much, as long as the service provided is explained, people are gonna be ok with it. You want spy service or private service, you choose. You like to be spied upon, great, we can coddle you if you lose your password too. You want private service, it’s private, end of story.

Nick P June 4, 2015 1:05 AM

@ Bruce

Congratulations on the award. You earned it. The Apple CEO getting one must have been symbolic because they’re one of the worst in our whole industry in terms of security measures, user freedom, and so on. For security, this is the company whose people implemented a service requiring authentication that didn’t check the password against a database: merely entering any password sufficed. Might as well add crypto to a hardened DOS OS.

@ all

re Apple iMessage EFF review

“Is the code open to independent review?”

Most important question. Also, is the TCB (esp OS/firmware) under it open to independent review for deliberate or accidental vulnerabilities? Answer for both are No. Remember that the leaked slide said iPhone compromise had a 100% success rate. That’s not an endorsement of their security regardless of what specifics they depend on.

Georg Kokte June 4, 2015 1:27 AM

@Nick P

I’m sorry, I must have been distracted: what scandal are you referring to, regarding Apple?


For a while now, comments like these have made me want to format every computer I own and install BSD or something on it. I don’t do it because it would be a pain, but who knows… I probably would not be secure either way! 😀

Georg Kokte June 4, 2015 1:39 AM

On the other hand, for all their shortcoming, Apple’s stance on privacy and encryption could be a good thing for the tech industry at large. Like what happened with tablets or indeed with the whole smartphone market, I would not be surprised if Microsoft or Google started building encryption in their product just to keep up w/ Apple..

It may not be perfect but some privacy is always better than no privacy, isn’t it?

rgaff June 4, 2015 3:43 AM

First of all, right… congrats Bruce!

@Nick P

100% success rate at compromising iPhones is certainly really terrible. However, it seems logical to assume that they haven’t broken into 100% of iPhones in existence, only that they more likely merely compromise 100% of the ones they target. For example, if you are arrested while carrying an iPhone, you can assume a 100% chance it’s broken into and copied!

What’s even MORE terrible however, is Apple’s data collection becoming a one-stop shop of everyone’s data at one place, and they just hoover it all up with some secret NSL or various other means. This is what makes me very much against most cloud services, much more so than iPhones.

In short, I’m much more against mass surveillance than targeted surveillance, regardless of whether it’s done legally/ethically/constitutionally/etc.

@Georg Kokte

You don’t need to reformat every computer, just make your next one BSD or something 🙂 You can’t do everything at once, but you can keep going in a certain direction. As I write this, for example, I’m on a windows machine, with a mac laptop sitting next to me, and two linux virtual machines going, and remote connected to two more one of which is even an open source hardware design in the other room… it’s fun 😉 But you still have to use the best tool to get each job done. Life is full of compromises. But we can keep working on them over time looking for ways to reduce them.

Don’t hold your breath on Microsoft though. Remember they are the ones that HAD end to end encryption when they bought out Skype AND THEN BROKE IT!!! They had something secure, and then made it insecure just to be peeping toms with the government! Gee thanks Bill Gates, we love you too! So.. even if they reverse their stance and start claiming they’re secure again, it has to be a lie, there’s no other way it can be.

We should also assume that Apple’s so-called “secure” facetime and imessage are in fact insecure, until they actually PROVE otherwise. Merely claiming something isn’t enough in today’s world where the government can throw you in prison if you don’t lie for them! When trust has been broken, you MUST verify to regain it. Otherwise, I’m sorry, but it’s gone forever.

keiner June 4, 2015 5:33 AM

@Georg Kokte

Have a look at PC-BSD, it’s basically like Windows with a closes “App Cafe” for applications to be installed. For normal users with some office / browsing / pic and film usage of computers more than adquate…

BoppingAround June 4, 2015 9:31 AM

I think he was referring to DROPOUTJEEP or DROPJEEP (do not remember exactly), from NSA ANT catalogue.

Christian June 4, 2015 11:32 AM

Apple removing local sync in favor of iCloud motivated me to look into AOSP.

Given the lack of end-to-end encryption and the current legal situation, this was a significant step backwards in terms of user privacy – even for a closed source ecosystem.

Georg Kokte June 4, 2015 12:58 PM


Thanks! It’s not the new OS per se that makes me wary, it’s the whole installing bootloader / partitioning disks that really discourage me. I’ve done this kind of things before and I have used a *nix OS for years, but my current laptop as a one-button reset stuff that (even if I only used it maybe once) is just so nice to have and it will in all probability break down if I touch the disk partitions.

My current plan however is to wait for Win 10 (wich will undoubtedly render the one-key reset unusable anyway) and the install some sort of linux. BSD would probably be better but I don’t want unnecessary headaches w/ hw support.

Sofakinbd June 4, 2015 1:21 PM


Thanks rgaff, I see what you are saying. I guess Spider-Oak and others are able to do dropbox things and still have end-to-end. I’m not a programmer, and therefore not savvy enough to understand the details but I see what you are saying. Thanks for clarifying.

Also, Congratulations Bruce!


albert June 4, 2015 2:38 PM

Congrats, @Bruce.
Unlike Captain Cook, you deserve it!
Apple makes hardware and provides software, music, books,…. Their Walled Garden allows them to lock in users, and it works. Just look at their profits.
It really doesn’t matter what they say; if the gov’t wants your data, they will get it. Protecting users data is a nice sentiment, but at the end of the day, not possible. National security will trump everything. Even Apple can’t afford to take on the DOJ, although that would be an interesting court case. Anyone want to hazard a guess as to how SCOTUS would rule?

Marcos El Malo June 4, 2015 7:11 PM


Apple has taken on the DOJ in court, although not over security reasons.

I like Apple for chat/messaging, where they are using end-to-end encryption. Admittedly, the implementation is not open for inspection, so one shouldn’t feel overconfident. It’s still a better solution than those that aren’t offering end-to-end.

Regarding the cloud, one isn’t locked into Apple for backups and storage. There are secure solutions out there that can be used with iOS. I think the point is that Apple does offer a privacy improvement over their main competitors: Google and Microsoft. I just wish their actual offering was as good. Traditionally, Apple is behind on cloud services (and they charge too much for it).

Stepping back from individual vendor comparisons and looking at the big picture, it’s the mass surveillance that troubles me most, followed by LE and Intelligence efforts to weaken security. Targeted spying I have much less problem with. So, if LE is forced to use warrants and what haveyou for targeted investigations, I think I can live with that. FISA does need reform, however. There needs to be some sort of public advocate. Oversight reform via Congress would also be a good thing.

Todd June 4, 2015 11:57 PM

The Champion is Tim Cook of Apple Computer fame!. Tsk, tsk, task… “Anything less, it’s Freedom Theatre.”

Jason Richardson-White June 5, 2015 9:36 AM

Follow-on links from Bruce’s post lead to this piece on TechCrunch about the unification of Google’s privacy policies (“one policy to rule them all…” comes to mind) and how it further reduces the visibility of Google’s activities by hiding privacy details. See http://techcrunch.com/2015/06/01/google-photos-reminder-smile-its-free-youre-the-product/.

I mention this because just this morning I received notice from Microsoft via email that Microsoft is seemingly going the same route. The email links to this page, https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/servicesagreement , which unifies all services under a single agreement. (Reading the language, it is eerily reminiscent of the breezy legalese that you see in Google legal documents — you know, the informal, nonchalant, nothing-happening-here, we-just-want-to-be-clear sort…)

At the beginning of the Services Agreement, there are apparently only three distinct and relevant Privacy statements, which is fairly startling for a company of Microsoft’s size and scope.

I could be misinterpreting or under-researching, but the anecdotal evidence seems at least consistent with Cook’s position.

None of this undermines rgaff’s argument. For my part, though, I like George Kotke’s “half a privacy loaf is better than none at all” argument, which seems politically more realistic.

albert June 5, 2015 11:36 AM

@Marcos El Malo,
Although I don’t trust Apple any more than I trust Microsoft, I would wish them all the best in a DOJ case regarding security. Unfortunately, there are only losers in such cases. The gov’t has infinite taxpayer $$ to throw at them, and the courts, especially SCOTUS, are already bought and paid for.
We have had targeted investigations for decades, with real warrants, signed by real judges, and available, at least, to defense attorneys. Not to mention public trials, with public records. Any time you bring any secrecy into the legal system, you limit or eliminate oversight, accountability, and ultimately, justice. It’s a much deeper problem than ‘just’ gov’t espionage.

Clive Robinson June 5, 2015 4:58 PM

With regards Apple amongst others the FBI have them in their sights and are beging US lawmakers to put in place anti-encryption legislation…

But the FBI have now publicaly stated that “companies should help us prevent encryption above all else”.


The implication of this is the total loss of freedom over your phones and computers, because it’s the only way this could be done. Which means the death of FOSS and even learning to program at home etc.

The fact the FBI are saying this sort of thing to US lawmakers is increasingly worrying, because the rest of the world will not go along with it. Thus another outcome will be that US products will be compleatly open to security issues and other countries will not be interested in either US ICT products or services.

I can not remember what the US ICT industry is worth in not just GDP but export income, but the US Treasury can kiss the better part of it good by if the FBI get their way.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons June 5, 2015 5:11 PM

@ Clive Robinson
Given that any hearing where a director or manager at any level in the FBI is a “witness”, that person states that the use of encryption is the biggest threat to the country. Besides the obvious conflation of the issue, there must be some liability to testimony that does not factually represent true threats to the nation (speaking as a citizen, not a global issue–yet). Isn’t the technical mis-representation of weighted, analyzed, threats to the nation–the greatest threat?

Clive Robinson June 5, 2015 5:58 PM

@ Name.Witheld…,

I think you are looking for “Malfeasance in Public Office”, I don’t know what the maximum tariff is in the US but when they copied / adopted the “British” law it was “life imprisoment and unlimited fine”…

And as the line from Evolution says “Not that cushy Federal prison with the jump suits, but real prison…”.

Me June 8, 2015 1:04 AM

Best joke I ever heard. Apple and security? Haha. Privacy? Hahahaha, that is freaking hilarious! And because of encryption? Android have had that longer than iOS but both are badly implemented.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.