Friday, February 19, 2016

Apple's Stance on Privacy

Three days ago, Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, sent an open letter to customers stating the company's opposition to the Department of Justice's request that Apple develop software to implement a backdoor in the iPhone. The next day, The Daily Beast published an article, Apple Unlocked iPhones for the Feds 70 Times Before, which, on the surface, would lead the reader to believe this predicament is no different from the scores of previous situations when Apple unlocked iPhones for the authorities. But there's a key difference between then and now in that iOS security was weaker, in the past. Currently, Apple has not developed the technology to circumvent their own security in order to extract the encrypted data. The Department of Justice claims their request falls under the All Writs Act and the has government ordered that Apple Inc. create a special version of its iOS operating system, with certain security features removed.

Keep in mind that strong security is similar to a wall safe. The only two ways to penetrate strong security is either with the key (combination) or through brute force. Even if the hacker has the blueprints to the safe or the software source code for the encryption it doesn't help with the attack.

Hard Come, Easy Go

Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. Apple's stance against the federal government stems from the NSA's PRISM program. The Daily Beast article points out, "It wasn’t until after the revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that Apple began to position itself so forcefully as a guardian of privacy protection in the face of a vast government surveillance apparatus."

While federal officials speculate that access to the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone data might be a national security issue, that's not enough to warrant the creation of a backdoor. Keeping America safe is not the oath that elected officials or military officers take. Rather, their oath is to support and defend the Constitution. It is not a stretch to see how America could be much safer by curtailing our Bill of Rights. Saudi Arabia is a safe country to live in, with low crime.

Update 21 Feb 2016: Another point to consider is that Apple Inc. is a multi-national corporation located in different countries and jurisdictions. If one argues that Apple has to develop a special iOS version for the US government, in this single case, in the name of terrorism, then should Apple also develop special iOS versions for, say, France or China if requested? As the New Yorker’s Amy Davidson writes, “If it [the government] can tell Apple, which has been accused of no wrongdoing, to sit down and write a custom operating system for it, what else could it do?”

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