Suffolk DA Dan Conley seeks to preserve government snooping

Illustration: Brendan Lynch

If we have learned anything from Edward Snowden’s revelations about government spying and from the behavior of corporations that exploit our personal information as a marketing tool, it is surely this: We need more and better ways to protect our online privacy.

But not according to Dan Conley. The Suffolk County district attorney delivered a Muzzle-winning performance in April before a congressional subcommittee, arguing that the strong user encryption being offered by companies like Apple and Google will mainly benefit sexual deviants and terrorists, whose data will be beyond the reach of law enforcement.

“In America, we often say that none of us is above the law,” Conley testified. “But when unaccountable corporate interests place crucial evidence beyond the legitimate reach of our courts, they are in fact placing those who rape, defraud, assault, and even kill in a position of profound advantage over victims and society.”

Shorter Conley: If we protect our privacy, the terrorists win. It’s a ludicrous argument, and it was easily countered by Representative Ted Lieu, a California Democrat who not only majored in computer science as an undergraduate but who also served as a military lawyer.

According to the technology website Ars Technica, Lieu called Conley’s remarks “offensive” and said of Apple’s and Google’s privacy-enhancing moves: “This is a private sector response to government overreach.” The congressman added: “Apple and Google don’t have coercive power. District attorneys do, the FBI does, the NSA does, and to me it’s very simple to draw a privacy balance when it comes to law enforcement and privacy: Just follow the damn Constitution.”