You, Citizen: Report to Your Government

I’m a bit of an armchair spectator when it comes to American politics. I find the whole process confusing, convoluted and oh-so-drawn-out.

I once had someone try to convince me that drawn-out battles were a good idea.

Their idea was that the longer the selection process took, the better chance you had to ‘get to know’ your elected official.

The problem with that is I don’t think many Americans really get that involved in the ‘get to know you’ process. I have no doubt that, like many Aussies, it’s the sound bites on the nightly commercial news networks that form the basis of their opinions.

I’m not here to debate which one is better.

My view is that the process doesn’t matter; they’re all corrupt. Just how deep the corruption runs is something we explore in tomorrow’s issue of Strategic Intelligence.

While we don’t get right to the bottom of it — you can’t completely unearth political corruption in 8,000 words — the issue highlights political and banking influence on the US economy.

One of the points that we briefly touch, though, is the creeping rise of government control.

It starts innocently enough.

Web filters to protect the children. Strict alcohol consumption laws to stop you from making your own decisions. Insisting that 9.5% of your wages be paid into a retirement fund you’ll never see if you under the age of 40.

And then the attempts for control become more obvious.

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump called on Americans last week to boycott Apple. It might not have gotten as much media attention if it wasn’t for Trump.

Since Trump gobbed off, it’s become big news. Apple denying a Federal court order? Oh my…

In case you haven’t heard, the head honchos at Apple have refused a Federal magistrate’s order to hack into a smartphone that belonged to one of the people involved in the San Bernardino shootings in California last year.

Trump — because he knows what’s good for the people — declared at a political rally in Southern California shortly after Apple refused:

Who do they think they are? First of all, Apple ought to give the security for that phone. What I think you ought to do is boycott Apple until such time as they give that security number.

I can’t fathom why Trump would call for this. Does he honestly believe the people think this is a good idea? Or is he just too clumsy to hide the government’s agenda for political control over the masses?

As unlikely as this statement sounds, I’m thankful Trump opened his expensively sculpted lips and said that about Apple.

Because of him, the topic of the government pressing private businesses for sensitive personal data is getting some much needed attention.

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, felt the need to defend their move. Telling Apple fans in an open letter that the FBI’s nosiness is ‘an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers’.

A day later, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak added his two cents, telling CNBC:

I believe that Apple’s brand recognition and value and profits is largely based on an item called trust. Trust means you believe somebody. You believe you’re buying a phone with encryption.

You can’t trust who is in power. It’s like believing the authority and police wherever they go. Generally, when they write the rules, they’re right when they’re wrong.

Most importantly, Wozniak highlighted his fear of the ‘creep’ that breaking encryption would bring. The problem isn’t just this one phone. It’s what happens next.

I’m talking about the general case that goes much deeper than this case. And that is the FBI wants a permanent backdoor built in. And I just think that’s wrong.

Before you get sucked into the Trump vortex of reality, this isn’t a PR stunt to get Apple’s names in the papers.

Apple doesn’t need the people on its side.

As an example of just how pervasive Apple products are, both my kids (aged three and five) think all tablets are called iPads. No matter what the brand. To them, a large touch screen device is an iPad in their grubby fingered world. It’s the generic ‘Walkman’ term of their generation.

Facebook said in a statement that it will comply with lawful requests for user information. However, it will ‘continue to fight aggressively’ on demands that weaken their security.

Adding that ‘these demands would create a chilling precedent and obstruct companies’ efforts to secure their products’.

Twitter boss, Jack Dorsey, Tweeted his support for Tim Cook at Apple. Telling the Twitterverse: ‘We stand with Tim Cook and Apple (and thank him for his leadership)!

And then Google spoke.

Google CEO, Sundar Pichi, joined the chorus, saying the court order ‘could set a troubling precedent’.

We know that law enforcement and intelligence agencies face significant challenges in protecting the public against crime and terrorism.

We build secure products to keep your information safe and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders.

But that’s wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices and data.’

Our Revolutionary Tech Insider analyst, Sam Volkering, weighed in last week on why it’s so important that we trust these private companies more than the government.

As Sam explains below, because of our digital lives, it’s vital that we have faith in the owners of our information:

‘With the pervasive nature of modern technology in our lives we put our data, information and privacy at risk. Everywhere we go we leave “breadcrumbs” of data: GPS location, browser history, biometric information, payments and so on.

We use this to help manage our day to day lives better. But there are nefarious players out there — namely government and law enforcement — who want to use our data and information to know more about us.

They want to keep an eye on us, profile us. And they do it all under the fake guise of “national security”. But in order to get all this information they need big tech companies to play nice. So for us, as private individuals we have to trust companies like Google and Apple that they won¹t just hand over the keys to our data at the government¹s beck and call.

This has just been put to the test with Apple. The FBI sent a court order to Apple demanding they unlock the phone of one of the recent California Shooters. Apple said no. Apple championed the privacy of the individual — regardless of the situation.

Providing Apple sticks to its guns (pardon the pun), it’s a big win for our privacy and a big middle finger to the government. But will Apple have the guts to stand up or will it cave in as the pressure builds?

Will Apple give in? I’ll pray to a deity they don’t. We can’t escape the technology. But we’re left with no choice but to blindly trust these capitalists to protect us — their so-called ‘customers’.

This isn’t just a little spat between Apple, the FBI and the US Federal Court.

It’s political influence pushing for an ever growing amount of information about you. And what they can’t get on you, well, clearly that’s what the court system is for.

Regardless of your views on Trump, his glib comment to boycott put the spotlight on the dirty tricks of politicians. The tricks they’ll pull when they don’t think you’re watching.

We have been privy to the government using their clout to obtain information.

As I explain in Strategic Intelligence tomorrow, you don’t always see the obvious grab for political control.

We got lucky this time.


Shae Russell,

Editor, Strategic Intelligence

From the Port Phillip Publishing Library

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Since starting out in the financial markets over a decade ago, Shae has extensive experience across various aspects of the industry. Shae cut her teeth in the derivatives industry, teaching clients basic trading techniques with technical analysis.

Joining Fat Tail Investment Research eight years ago, Shae has worked across a number of publications, such as Australian Small-Cap Investigator, Gold Stock Trader and Microcap Trader. She’s spent the past two years however, honing her macro analysis skills alongside Jim Rickards, showing Australians how to invest and profit form global macro trends.

Drawing on her extensive experience, Shae is a contributor to Money Morning, and lead editor of sister-publication Markets & Money, where she looks at broad macro trends developing around the world, combining them with her distaste for central banks and irrational love of all things bullion.

Money Morning Australia