Apple FBI showdown: ensure security

Vivek Sharma, Staff Writer

In the FBI vs. Apple case, the FBI is undoubtedly in the right. After the horrific terror attack in San Bernardino, the FBI gained access to the iPhone of deceased terrorist Syed Farook, one of the perpetrators, but were unable to enter the phone due to the passcode. The FBI asked Apple to create a temporary custom iOS, a type of operating system, for the phone, which would enable the FBI to view the information held on the device. Apple refused, as they did not want to set a “dangerous precedent” with other agencies. Without Apple’s support, the FBI was forced to find another way to access the contents of the iPhone in question. By not allowing the FBI access the contents of Farook’s phone, Apple delayed the FBI from obtaining crucial information that could help prevent future terrorist attacks. In fact, Apple is legally obligated to comply with the FBI, which was why the U.S. government was rightfully suing Apple over this issue. There is no doubt that the FBI is completely justified in its request for Apple to allow them access to Syed Farook’s iPhone 5c.

There is a clear moral high ground in this case, and it is not with Apple. As James Comey, the director of the FBI, put it, “Maybe the phone holds the clue to finding more terrorists. Maybe it doesn’t. But we can’t look the survivors in the eye, or ourselves in the mirror, if we don’t follow this lead.”

Apple, a huge technology company with access to potential terrorist activity, is blatantly refusing to play its crucial role in the war on terrorism. This was absolutely unacceptable to everyone but was especially so for the families of victims. As Robert Velasco, whose daughter, Yvette, was a victim of the San Bernardino shooting, emotionally stated, “A lot of the families of the victims-we’re kind of angry and confused as to why Apple is refusing to do this.”

Additionally, Apple is clearly violating federal laws by not helping the FBI. Under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (CALEA), telephone companies and Internet providers are obliged to assist with government investigations, to deal with the growing prevalence of encryption – perhaps by requiring companies to build the government to build “backdoors” for the government into secure devices and messaging apps. Additionally, under the All Writs Act, Apple must comply unless they are “so far removed from the controversy” or have an “unreasonable burden” placed on them by this request. Before the case was retracted, Apple was expected to argue that there was an unreasonable burden placed on them because it would set a “dangerous precedent” for other law enforcement units. However, that is really a small price to pay when it comes to preventing terrorist attacks and saving human lives.

Recently, the FBI managed to figure out a way to access the contents of the iPhone in question without Apple’s support, which means that other law enforcements could simply follow suit and proceed in similar situations without Apple’s assistance. This sets an even more dangerous precedent as Apple cannot even ensure the security of their devices. If Apple had simply complied, not only would the end result be the same, but they would be able to control the security of their devices.

Apple refusal to cooperate with the FBI to unlock the contents of Syed Farook’s iPhone is really despicable. The FBI may be able to save hundreds of human lives with the information stored on the phone. Additionally, Apple broke important federal laws. Apple’s actions were unacceptable.