APPLE VS THE FBI – FIGHT!
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that things were poised to come to a head with both parties battling it out in court until, out of nowhere, the FBI rescinded the order on the grounds that they no longer needed Apple’s help, thanks to a new method for unlocking the phone submitted by an anonymous outside source.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.