Emirates Man - - STYLE TECH -

Back in Fe­bru­ary, the world’s largest tech com­pany and the United States’ fed­eral law en­force­ment agency butted heads over a locked iPhone 5C be­long­ing to a now-deceased ter­ror­ist who per­pe­trated an at­tack in San Bernardino, Cal­i­for­nia, last De­cem­ber. If you were any­where near the in­ter­net over the past few months, you not only heard about it, but likely formed an opin­ion on the mat­ter and forcibly stated said opin­ion on so­cial me­dia. At the very least you prob­a­bly shared some kind of meme. Justi ably so, it was a hot-but­ton is­sue for which both sides pre­sented a com­pelling ar­gu­ment. Plainly put, the FBI (by way of a court-ap­pointed or­der) de­manded that Ap­ple cre­ate a back­door into the phone so that they could poke around for any in­for­ma­tion that might shed fur­ther in­sight into the in­ci­dent and the pos­si­bil­ity of any fu­ture at­tacks. Ap­ple re­fused to com­ply on the grounds that, in ef­fec­tively cre­at­ing a hack for the de­vice, they would be leav­ing the door open for law en­force­ment to come to them ev­ery time they needed an iPhone un­locked, thereby putting the pri­vacy of ev­ery one of their cus­tomers po­ten­tially at risk. Rock, meet hard place.

Weeks of pub­lic bick­er­ing, open let­ters and po­lit­i­cal grand­stand­ing fol­lowed, and it seemed that things were poised to come to a head with both par­ties bat­tling it out in court un­til, out of nowhere, the FBI re­scinded the or­der on the grounds that they no longer needed Ap­ple’s help, thanks to a new method for un­lock­ing the phone sub­mit­ted by an anony­mous out­side source. Col­lec­tively the in­ter­net (and, I’d imag­ine, Ap­ple’s lawyers) breathed a sigh of re­lief. We’d been spared what would have un­doubt­edly been a nasty, knock-down-drag-out ght be­tween seem­ingly good in­ten­tions on both sides. In the end the FBI got what it wanted and Ap­ple still came off look­ing like the good guy, never hav­ing to re­lin­quish ac­cess to the locked phone.

But, of course, it never re­ally was just about one soli­tary iPhone – it was al­ways about prece­dent. In an open let­ter to its cus­tomers, Ap­ple CEO Tim Cook ex­pressed con­cern that one de­mand would lead to more, be­cause once cre­ated, an ex­ploit like the one the FBI wanted can be used again and again and that “the gov­ern­ment could ex­tend this breach of pri­vacy and de­mand that Ap­ple build sur­veil­lance soft­ware to in­ter­cept your mes­sage, ac­cess your health records or nan­cial data, track your lo­ca­tion, or even ac­cess your phone’s mi­cro­phone or cam­era with­out your knowl­edge”.

Sure, these are some scare­mon­ger­ing, Or­wellian-level claims, but what­ever your thoughts on Ap­ple, the com­pany has at least taken a stand. It could have just as eas­ily com­plied in si­lence, and we would have never known any dif­fer­ent. In­stead, it took it upon it­self to ght for the fu­ture of our dig­i­tal pri­vacy, de­spite risk­ing alien­ation due to the sen­si­tive na­ture of the crime the or­der re­lated to. The fact that things ended the way they did are some­what ir­rel­e­vant, be­cause in­evitably this is­sue will rear its head again, and it’s en­cour­ag­ing to know that tech com­pa­nies are in­deed tak­ing our pri­vacy se­ri­ously and not ly­ing down with­out a ght.

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