When the FBI asks you to weaken your security so it can spy on your users

Nico Sell is the CEO of Wickr, a privacy-oriented mobile messaging system that's been deliberately designed so that the company can't spy on its users, even if they're ordered to do so. As we know from the Snowden leaks, spooks hate this kind of thing, and spend $250M/year sabotaging security so that they can spy on everyone, all the time.

After a recent presentation, she was approached by an FBI agent who asked her if she'd put a back-door into Wickr.

She declined. What's more, she lectured the agent on the First and Fourth Amendments, and on her family tradition of upholding liberty (her ancestor was a drummer boy in Washington's corps: "Washington thought it was very important to have freedom of information and private correspondence without government surveillance.").

Her lecture concluded, she proceeded to grill the agent. "I asked if he had official paperwork for me, if this was an official request, who his boss was," said Sell. "He backed down very quickly."

Though she didn't budge for the agent, Sell makes it clear that surveillance and security is a complicated issue. "Ten years ago, I'd have said yes," said Sell. "Because if law enforcement asks you to catch bad guys, who wouldn't want to help?"

The difference now, she explained, was her experiences at BlackHat. Among those, Sell pointed to a BlackHat event where Thomas Cross demonstrated how to break into lawful intercept machines—or wiretaps. "It was very clear that a backdoor for the good guys is always a backdoor for the bad guys."

What It's Like When The FBI Asks You To Backdoor Your Software [Max Eddy/PC Mag]

(Thanks, Nico!)

(Disclosure: I am proud to serve as an advisor to Wickr)

(Image: Back Door?, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from swanksalot's photostream)