FBI Director James Comey during a Wednesday speech on privacy at Kenyon College, Ohio said that he’s anxious enough about the prospect of secret surveillance which is why he places a piece of tape over his laptop computer’s webcam, a gesture that is often deemed to be “paranoid,” according to NPR.
Comey discussed a myriad of issues concerning privacy and encryption, repeating his argument that “absolute privacy” hampers law enforcement. This impromptu remark during the Q&A session at Kenyon College comes in the wake of the U.S. Department of Justice’s very public spat with Apple over hacking into a locked iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters. Even though the government used legal action to try and force Apple to help in unlocking the iPhone, when Apple refused, the FBI later announced that it had found a way to successfully break into the iPhone.
Comey’s argument is that an obsession with privacy hurts law enforcement efforts, but he also revealed he understands why people are taking measures to protect themselves. In fact, he does exactly the same.
According to NPR, during his speech Comey also argued that tech companies should not look to make devices that are “unhackable” by law enforcement agencies. By Comey’s own admission, he places tape over his laptop’s webcam for privacy reasons.
For some privacy advocates, Comey’s tape measure is awfully hypocritical. On one hand, the FBI demands that software companies engineer make devices so that federal government can gain access. On the other hand, Comey is placing tape over his webcam, which renders it useless, were law enforcement to remotely deploy malware to turn it on without his knowledge. However, there are some who have come ahead to defend his reasoning.