March 8, 2016

Blacks join with Apple to fight FBI spying on phones

Intercept - The court fight between Apple and the FBI prompted a slew of letters and legal briefs last week from outside parties, including many tech companies and privacy groups. But a particularly powerful letter came from a collection of racial justice activists, including Black Lives Matter.

The letter focused on potential civil rights abuses, should the FBI gain the power to conscript a technology company into undermining its own users’ security.

“One need only look to the days of J. Edgar Hoover and wiretapping of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to recognize the FBI has not always respected the right to privacy for groups it did not agree with,” wrote the signatories, including arts and music nonprofit Beats, Rhymes & Relief, the Center for Media Justice, The Gathering for Justice, Justice League NYC, activist and writer Shaun King, and Black Lives Matter co-founder and Black Alliance for Just Immigration executive director Opal Tometi.

Those tactics haven’t ended, they argue. “Many of us, as civil rights advocates, have become targets of government surveillance for no reason beyond our advocacy or provision of social services for the underrepresented.”

In Washington and Silicon Valley, the debate over unbreakable encryption has an aura of elite, educated, mostly male whiteness — from the government representatives who condemn it to the experts who explain why it’s necessary.

But the main targets of law enforcement surveillance have historically been African American and Muslim communities.

Malkia Cyril, the co-founder of Center for Media Justice, one of the letter’s signatories, gave a speech at one of several nationwide protests outside Apple stores two weeks ago, supporting the tech giant and pointing out the FBI’s history of surveilling black activists. “In the context of white supremacy and police violence, Black people need encryption,” she wrote in a tweet.

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