Apple v. FBI: It’s More Than the Technology

Privacy has been a tense subject over the past few years. The recent events around the San Bernardino shooting in early December of last year, have become the newest point of contention in the debate over our rights of privacy when it comes to technology.

A brief background to set the scene: On December 2, 2015, a married couple, the husband a US born citizen and the wife born in Pakistan but was a US citizen, attacked the Inland Regional Center where a function was being held. The couple fled the scene and were killed in a shootout with police hours later. All together the gunmen killed 14 people and injured 22. The shooting was the biggest terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11.

How this relates to privacy, an iPhone that belonged to one of the shooters was recovered at the scene. This iPhone could have information on it that would assist in the investigation. According to Apple’s website, any iPhone running iOS 8 can’t be accessed by Apple for data extraction because the phone is encryption is tied to the user’s access code. After so many wrong pass codes, the phone will delete all the data on it. The iPhone recovered runs iOS 8, no one except the shooter can open it but the shooter is dead and is not any help in unlocking the phone. In early February, a judge ordered Apple to comply with the FBI to build a program that is essentially a backdoor to the iPhones security. The program would allow the FBI to put in as many pass codes as they want to unlock the phone. In response to this court order Apple said no, and they will fight the FBI every way they can. Apple also released a customer letter on February 16, where they outlined what was being asked of them and why they are refuse work with the FBI.

In the court order, the FBI is asking for access to just this one phone. They want this program so they can open the one phone and get its contents. However, in a congressional panel on March 1st, Apples general counsel Bruce Sewell told the panel, “The tool that we’re being asked to create will work on any iPhone that is in use today.” He goes on to say, “The notion that this is something only about opening one lock or that there is some degree of locks that can’t be opened with the tool that they’re asking us to create, is a misnomer.” To sum up what Sewell is saying, the FBI is asking Apple to create a tool that doesn’t just affect this one phone, but they want Apple to create a tool can be used on any iPhone in the world.

On top of the massive undertaking Apple would have to take on to create the program. If Apple is required by the FBI to access this phone, a precedent is set that the government has the ability to make tech companies give them access to their client’s data. Sure, Apple can create the program and then come up with an update to the iOS that makes the iPhone more secure. However, what stops Apple from being made to create another program to give the government another backdoor? This is why there is such a push back from Apple. Other companies like Google and Facebook have taken stands with Apple because they don’t want the precedent that would be set. Mark Zuckerberg agrees that companies like Apple and Facebook have responsibility to work with the government to keep citizens safe, but he doesn’t agree that weakening the security of the iPhone is the way they should do it. Apple is willing to help the FBI anyway they can in order to protect people. Apple drew a line when it came to more than one person being affected by what the FBI wanted.

This situation is just one event in the battle on much privacy are we allowed when it comes to technology. This is not about a company wanting to protect its business so they can make money. This is about how far the government is allowed go in protecting our country, and what rights an American citizen has when it comes to our privacy.


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