In the furor over Apple’s refusal to cooperate with the FBI in removing the encryption on the iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, much has been said about the invasion of privacy that could result if the company provides a way to retrieve encrypted information from the phone.
A recent article in Time magazine says many of the major players in the technology sector are supporting Apple, including Amazon, Twitter, and eBay, and the company has received support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, former head of the NSA and the CIA Michael Hayden, and even Senator Lindsey Graham.
The issue is the FBI has requested Apple to provide an update to its iPhone operating system that would allow the agency to by-pass the 10-guess limit on the phone, in a effort to unlock the phone belonging to Farook, thus enabling the FBI to possibly extract information from the device that could lead to information to stop another such attack on American soil. No one is certain any such information exists on Farook’s phone.
Apple’s refusal to develop such an update, dubbed by the company as GovtOS, stems from the belief that, should such a system be developed, it would eventually be released into the wild, unintentionally of course, but most of these type things are eventually exposed, either by hacking or by some one with access to the system being careless.
Should that happen, every iPhone in existence would be susceptible to being taken over by hackers, and all the personal information stored on that device would be available to them. This would include not only your selfies, but banking and financial data, purchasing records, and names and contact information for all your friends and relatives. Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said, “To invent what they want me to invent puts millions of people at risk.”
What is interesting is the logic Cook presented in the article, about removing or banning the total encryption of the devices. According to the story, FBI Director James Comey has framed the argument as a choice between privacy and security, but Cool disagrees. Cook offered the example, what if Congress banned encryption entirely? Then, he feels, the “bad guys” will simply use encryption from non-American companies, because, in Cook’s words, “they’re pretty smart and Apple doesn’t own encryption.”
In other words, the “bad guys” would just get their phones hack-proofed elsewhere, and the only ones with unprotected privacy would be the millions of ordinary users. The result would be the FBI still could not access an encrypted terrorist phone, but the ordinary users in the US would be at a greater risk of having their data stolen.
The same system that protects the data of everyday users also protects the information of terrorists, and Cook said, “We get that. But you don’t take away the good for that sliver of bad.” He adds, “It’s at the core of who we are as a country.”
That seems to be sound logic, but when you apply the same to the gun control issue, it becomes less cut and dried for many. If you make guns illegal and take away guns from ordinary users, the “bad guys” will just get their guns elsewhere, as they will their encryption, and the only ones who suffer will be the ordinary users. The intent of the government in both situations is to save lives and protect its citizens. But, will either of these intents actually work to prevent Americans from being killed, either by terrorists or mentally-deranged gunmen?