Facebook, Google, Apple, & Uncle Sam

Apple Protester FBI Headquarters Washington DC

Now it’s San Francisco’s turn to see how we do it.

This Tuesday, and for the first time, we’re bringing Open to Debate to the Bay Area. In partnership with the National Constitution Center, we will be at the SFJazz Center, aiming to fuse the venerable and centuries-old Oxford style of argument with one of the most pressing conundrums facing the Big Data end of tech today (that’s YOU Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft, for starters). The question, affecting access to the data those companies make fortunes collecting on all of us, is this: when the government wants that data, but can’t get around the encryption wall it lives behind, what should happen?

And yes, this probably rings a real-life bell. It was only last year that the FBI was trying to force Apple to unlock the encrypted iPhone of a suspected terrorist killer, and Apple said “no way.” In the end, the feds cracked the phone on their own, but the issue remains huge, especially since the amount of Big Data piling up (data about YOU!) is reaching gargantuan proportions. It’s thorny because there are issues of national security at stake, and perhaps even patriotism — but there are also questions of overreach by law enforcement and the rights due to tech companies to keep their own secrets (like how to bust their encryption).

Our two teams of debaters represent actual players in the story who have wrestled over this matter from inside the White House and as well as in court. Those who follow this stuff will know the names John Yoo, Michael Chertoff, Catherine Crump, and Stewart Baker. All but Catherine have debated with us before. All are superb at it, and all aim to win, while keeping it (per our aspirations), civil, respectful and fact-based.

So come along. And tell your friends: Open to Debate is in town this Tuesday, June 6th, at 6:00 PM PDT. It’s not a secret.

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