John Oliver explains why he's on Team Apple in the encryption debate

John Oliver helpfully explained the encryption debate Sunday on his HBO show Last Week Tonight—and how being able to protect the insane amount of data we create every day is “pretty fundamental to how we live our lives.” Now the FBI has taken issue with how built-in encryption in iOS is preventing them from gathering evidence from locked iPhones, and Apple is refusing to code them a way around it.

It’s a great explanation too, covering most (but not all) of the sides. To explain the relevant laws or lack thereof, Oliver goes back to the crypto wars of the 90s. He points out how there are hundreds of encryption products made outside the arm of the U.S. law, so if the “bad guys” want strong encryption they’ll always be able to get it. He covers the potential international fallout. And along the way he manages to poke fun at Apple commercials, Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham, autocorrect, the Genius Bar, BlackBerry, Hulk Hogan, and the rose gold iPhone, which “looks like someone vomited a salmon dinner onto a pair of dirty ballet shoes.”

“There is no easy side to be on in this debate,” Oliver rightly declares, although at the end of the day he comes down on Apple’s side. Part of the difficulty is the semantics being tossed around. The government is using “deliberately ominous terms” like “going dark,” making dubious analogies to safe-cracking, and talking about the need to “penetrate” anything at any time. But Oliver doesn’t let Apple off the hook either, pointing out Tim Cook’s use of “cancer” to describe the proposed software.

The 18-minute segment is both a helpful summary of where we are, and a classic example of John Oliver at his funniest. Check it out below, and let us know what you think in the comments.


Susie Ochs

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