The Villainization Of Apple And The Future Of Personal Data

Editorial / Tech

Now that the FBI vs. Apple case has grasped the headlines inside and outside the tech world the villainization of Apple is in full swing. Just to recap quickly, the FBI is asking Apple to write a program that would essentially break the encryption on a phone used by the San Bernardino shooters. Apple is refusing to comply with the court order the FBI served them with arguing that if that program were written everyone with an iPhone would no longer be secure. The argument Apple and many of its supporters are making is, once a program like that is written, it will inevitably make its way out and into criminal hands. The FBI claims that they would not use the program for anything other than the one iPhone in question but even so, once you commit there’s no turning back.

Now that the world has had a few weeks for everything to start sinking in the attempts to vilify Apple are compounding day by day. One headline read that the iPhone was “the device of choice” for criminals. Another article quotes a judge saying that criminals no longer use “burner phones” (prepaid cells) but are instead switching to iPhones for better security. Now the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department is going public on the 88 iPhones they have in evidence they cannot break into. The agency claims these phones have been used in crimes such as drug deals, child porn and other dubious doings.

The reoccurring message in law enforcement’s argument feels like a blatant attempt to use criminal activity to sway public opinion over encryption and personal data. I mean Apple is allowing child pornographers to get away with their crimes because of it’s strong security. When you present the argument in that context it’s easier to feel responsibility and perhaps rethink your own privacy and security. Using horrendous crimes to poke holes in Apple’s argument is an effective weapon and people are more likely to succumb to guilty feelings than if the feds didn’t give a compelling reason.

The questions at hand is, should Apple give up the key to their security which could very well be cloned and leaked within a matter of hours, getting into the hands of criminals who most certainly will use it? Or should they continue to fight the FBI to protect the privacy and security of millions of their users? It’s a hard choice and one I am certain Tim Cook and Apple haven’t come to lightly. Does the FBI really think Cook is sitting in his office, voice cackling and rejoicing over criminals using Apple products as tools for crime? I certainly don’t think Cook is doing that and I don’t think this has been an easy choice for him or the company. The country should be having a long discussion over these matters of encryption, privacy and criminal activity. We’re in the new digital age and if we don’t address this now as a country, then the government may just impose itself on us.

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