Apple FBI showdown: protect privacy

Stelio Louka, Staff Writer

Recently, the FBI filed a court order in attempt to access and unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. The FBI put pressure on Apple to dissolve the phone’s security and decrypt its information in order to get around the feature of the iPhone that allows for automatic locking. This feature can even clear a phone of its data if a passcode is entered incorrectly multiple times. Apple rightfully took a strong stand against this, issuing a public statement announcing their rejection of the FBI demand.      

The FBI and other government agencies believe this issue to be simpler than it actually is. Many naively claim that this debate is just about this one device, and that Apple was withholding vital evidence that potentially could benefit the security of our country greatly. Unfortunately, there are a lot of nuances in this case that the government is either deliberately ignoring, or is just completely clueless about.

The truth is that once this “tool” is created and used to get around the iPhone’s encryption, it risks being used over and over again on different devices all around the world. Any weakness or vulnerability in the encryption software, like in this one, could be used by criminals and those with malicious intentions, as well. It could fall into the hands of terrorist organizations or enemies of the government. Apple, in their public statement, has called this “backdoor” through the phone’s security a “Master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks – from restaurants and banks, to stores and homes.”

I do not believe anyone would be comfortable with such a technology reaching the wrong agent, including our own government, which has repeatedly overreached in matters of surveillance– as demonstrated by famous whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Not only is this security bypass system dangerous, but in many cases, it is probably useless. Terrorists who want encryption will always get encryption. During this debate between Apple and the FBI, sales and downloads of encrypted messaging apps have increased dramatically. Many of these products are based outside of the United States as well, further complicating the legal issues. This goes to show that a terrorist could easily exploit any possible weakening of the encryption of Apple’s software.

The FBI demand was not just oversimplified and careless, it was also destructive. Many have criticized Apple for publicizing this issue, but it should be applauded. No longer should the government be working in the shadows to weaken our access to privacy. It is important to have this debate in a public setting and ask ourselves how comfortable we are having the government, or any other agent, including enemy nations, hackers, and terrorists, possibly getting their hands on something that does not belong to them.