Governments could use iPhone ‘backdoor’ to persecute LGBT people, whistleblower warns

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Chelsea Manning has issued a stark warning about the US government’s attempts to ‘force’ Apple to create a backdoor in iPhone security.

Apple boss Tim Cook spoke out last week after the US government ordered his firm to build a tool to allow them to bypass encryption systems on iOS and ‘crack’ an iPhone.

The US government claims that the tool would only be used once, on an iPhone recovered during the investigation of the San Bernardino mass shooting – but Cook warned that there is nothing to stop it being used repeatedly, or spread to other governments around the world.

In an op-ed for the Advocate, whistleblower Chelsea Manning warned that in the wrong hands, the ‘backdoor’ could be used to persecute LGBT people.

The former soldier, who is currently being held in a military prison, warned: “During my time working for the Army, I lived a ‘double life’ under the military’s don’t ask, don’t tell ban as a closeted trans woman in a relationship with a man.

“Living under the ban, I regularly used encryption to shield my personal information on my laptop and mobile devices from colleagues living in close quarters.

“However, things could have been even more high stakes for me. If I were a closeted trans woman, while living and working in less open countries—such as Russia, Uganda, and Nigeria—I could face imprisonment, torture, and even death, if exposed.

“This is why queer and trans people living in such countries now use encrypted devices, such as Apple’s iPhone 5C, to build and maintain its communities while avoiding the dangerous scrutiny of others.”

She added: “As the U.S. government seeks a novel judicial back door to one phone, all of our encrypted data on most of our mobile devices and personal computers could be compromised by adversaries of queer and trans people who seek to cause us harm.

“Meanwhile, lawmakers across the country, and the world, are now considering the passage of new laws that would require all technology companies to build such ‘back doors’ into all of our devices.”
Governments could use iPhone ‘backdoor’ to persecute LGBT people, whistleblower warns
Private Manning continued: “Fundamentally, we in the queer and trans community should understand the need for privacy far more than most people, given the varying degrees of discrimination and persecution by our society and our government.

“Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, lived as a closeted gay man himself for many years. Surely, his experience means he understands the importance of this as well.”

“In this case, complying with an order threatens to allow nefarious people in organizations to exploit such ‘back doors’, for queer and trans people and everyone else.”