Pentagon over Privacy

The case for the FBI

The FBI believes unlocking the iPhone is important for national security.

The FBI believes unlocking the iPhone is important for national security.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Apple have recently a finished legal battle over whether Apple should be required to open the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooters, who killed 14 people in December. The case was dropped after a third party unlocked the phone without Apple’s help. It was a complex issue, raising multiple concerns over privacy, but ultimately the FBI was in the right.

The fight began back in February, after a court ordered Apple to help the FBI unlock the phone. The next day, Apple publicly announced they would fight the ruling.

“In the wrong hands, this software… would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession,” Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, said.

That is a real threat, and it should not be ignored. But the FBI believed that the iPhone could contain information on other terrorist plots that could be stopped if they could access it.

It is important to note that the FBI was not asking for Apple to just unlock the phone.  They wanted Apple to remove the iPhone’s ability to delete its data when the password is incorrectly guessed 10 times, so that the FBI could “brute force” the phone, entering in as many passwords as possible to unlock the phone.

Apple claimed the creation of this software would create a threat of a backdoor, or an alternate way of access, where police or others could access iPhones completely unrelated to this case in the future. But this “threat” of a backdoor may not even be. Is there not a danger in having phones that are completely untouchable by law enforcement, even if they had a warrant?

There is certainly a danger in giving tools that can open a phone to police departments if they were to use them unjustly, but the tool itself could be incredibly valuable to police in stopping future terrorists or criminals.

Apple’s motives may not have been entirely clean, either. Although they claimed they were fighting for security and privacy of their consumers and to stop an overreach of the US government, their goal may have been much more monetary in nature.

“[Apple is fighting this] probably to protect their sales,” Dillon Ipema (11) said when the case was still in court. “If everybody knows they let a government agency through their stuff, people will feel like their data isn’t secure.”

If that is true, then Apple had a clear conflict of interest. The FBI’s motive, on the other hand, was at worst an expansion of this technology to wider policing efforts.

Would complete privacy be worth potential continuation of crime?