A citizen’s take on Apple vs the FBI
This week we’ve been hearing a lot about Apple and the FBI … about how the FBI wants Apple’s help to hack into an encrypted iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino terrorists. Apple has refused to cooperate. The FBI got a court order. Apple still refuses.
There are numerous reports explaining the situation, what the FBI is asking, and what Apple is saying about why they won’t cooperate. I found one site that both explains the situation and includes the full text of the judge’s order. Apple CEO Tim Cook posted his reply to the order Tuesday, making it clear that he has no intention of complying.
The FBI wants Apple to create a “backdoor” (ie, software) for the encrypted phone that will allow access to whatever is on it because they can’t get into it themselves (that’s the purpose of encryption). Apple is thought to be capable of writing the necessary software (not always possible, a developer told me), but refuses to do so. The issue here is that the FBI insists they only want access to the one phone. We and Apple know full well that once that backdoor — the key to the kingdom — exists, no iPhone in the world (reportedly more than 5 million) will be safe. The government will have access to all of them … and so will the world’s hackers.
The FBI won’t let the phone out of their hands, which negates my idea that they should just give the phone to Apple, let Apple extract or make available all the information, and then give the phone and its contents back to the FBI — after removing their proprietary code and the backdoor. In not proposing or agreeing to that, it seems to me the government might want more than what’s on the one phone.
No one knows yet how the story will end. There’s been talk of legislation from Congress, or even an appeal to the Supreme Court (not the best year to go that route). But I feel very strongly about how it should end. The government for years has been pressuring tech companies to create backdoors in their software so officials can access suspected terrorists’ phones (you know, just in case) … along with your phone and mine.
No. Just NO. We’ve already witnessed the government’s behavior under the Patriot Act. A secret court using a secret interpretation of the Act, issuing warrants right and left — or not — for spying on terrorists, suspected terrorists, and innocents who might possibly become persons of interest later. You know, spying just in case. Gathering private records, just in case. Extreme, illegal overreach. Over and over again. With no valid reason, but just in case.
I back Tim Cook and Apple 100%. It’s one phone, just one, says the FBI, and it wants access. But that backdoor access through one iPhone’s encryption will be a key to all iPhones that the FBI can use whenever it pleases. And we can be sure it will be used. On terrorists’ phones, on Americans’ phones, on your phone and mine. Not only by the FBI but by every hacker in the world who wants to create havoc.
Cook is right to refuse. I don’t know what the FBI’s next move will be, but there’s not a doubt in my mind that the FBI should not be given the access they want.
Cook should not acquiesce. He should not endanger the security and privacy of 50 million iPhone users just so the FBI can get into one dead terrorist’s cell phone.
NOTE, FEBRUARY 19: Apple said today that the password associated with the terrorist’s phone was changed less than 24 hours after the government took possession of the phone. Had that not happened, a backup of the information the government seeks might have been accessible. The FBI claims the password was changed by the San Bernardino Health Department.
Apple’s remarks came after the Justice Department said today that Apple’s resistance “appears to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy.” Really? They think Apple needs to worry about brand marketing?
NOTE, FEBRUARY 20: The Washington Post reported today that the San Bernardino Health Department changed the phone’s iCloud password at the request of the FBI.
ALSO ON PIED TYPE:
- Text of senators’ letter challenging Patriot Act abuses
- Patriot Act under fire from senators & FOI lawsuits
- Once upon a time in America, there was a Fourth Amendment
- I will not live in fear
- The unpatriotic Patriot Act