Rebutting Apple’s FAQ on the Lawfare Blog

Today, the Lawfare Blog (a project from the Brookings Institution) published my critique and rebuttal of Apple’s FAQ to its customers in connection with the San Bernardino case. The Lawfare Blog publishes a lot of great stuff, and I think presents a great venue to promote more reasoned engagement between the tech and government communities (rather than each just shouting to their own supporters).

You can read my post here.

Apple is (still) wrong, and tech needs to grow up.

(This is a follow-up to my post last week, “Apple is wrong. Your iPhone is not a black box.” Cross-posted here from Medium.)

lockIt seems that the storm that has been gathering for several years between the government and the tech industry around privacy, encryption, and the proper role of law enforcement is upon us. Apple has chosen its ground to stand on, and has now been joined — at least in spirit — by many of the other heavyweights of Silicon Valley, including Google, Facebook (and WhatsApp),Twitter, Microsoft and many more. Broadly, the Valley has closed ranks behind Apple’s contention that it should not be compelled to cooperate with the FBI’s request to decrypt a locked iPhone from the San Bernardino terrorists.

After I wrote about why Apple was wrong last week, I’ve continued to follow this issue closely, there are a few observations that are well worth making about how this debate has begun to evolve.

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Apple is wrong. Your iPhone is not a black box.

I recently posted this on Medium, which I’ve begun gravitating to for my blogging. In the last 36 hours or so, it’s garnered a couple of thousand views, which kind of blows me away, and has also turned my Twitter Mentions feed into a smoking garbage fire. I’m re-posting it here for posterity.

Following a long fight with the feds, Apple’s Tim Cook issued a sharp public retort to the FBI yesterday in the form of “A Message to Our Customers”:

The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.

The whole letter, which is not that long and worth reading, goes on to state Apple’s objection to the FBI’s request to essentially create a new, custom version of iOS that they can use to defeat the security on a recovered iPhone 5C from the San Bernardino terrorists.

The real crux of this question, of course, turns on the core of one of the tech industry’s biggest current controversies: government access (or “surveillance,” depending on your framing of the issue). Should the government — in whatever its form — be able to gain access to data on your smartphone?

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Twitter’s Opportunity

A while back, I took a hard look at Twitter’s stock performance, as well as its third quarter earnings and CEO shakeup, and decided — it’s time. I went and purchased a fairly large (for me — I’m no Sacca!) position in Twitter stock.

Since then, well, you know what’s happening. I could screenshot a picture of the stock price chart, but this gif probably says it better.

$TWTR up 5% today! Woohoo! Only 20% more to go until… we’re back at December’s price.

So, I suppose that’s my disclaimer here: I’m a $TWTR shareholder. Like pretty much everyone in the last three weeks, I’ve lost some money recently.I don’t regret my purchase of Twitter, for the reasons I’m going to lay out here; yet I also see clouds on the horizon that I sure hope every single person on Twitter’s product team is watching.

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Product Managers as Capstones

When I first got interested in moving into product management several years ago, I basically read a lot and asked around to understand more about the role and what it entailed. A lot of what I was found is still the conventional wisdom of Product Management: what they call the “mini CEO” model. As its name implies, this idea puts the PM at the center — or perhaps the top — of a system that produces a product.

Over the years since, across different product roles in different companies, I’ve had to un-learn a lot of that. Today, I mostly reject the “mini CEO” model of Product Management. Here’s why.

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