Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook is opposing a federal court order to help the FBI unlock the iPhone that was used by one of the two terrorists who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, in December.
Some might ask why Apple would go against the bureau if it is to help gain more information on terrorism. The issue here is not that Apple refuses to comply with the FBI. Cook said Apple has worked with the FBI, providing, with a search warrant, all information that is in their possession. The iPhone used by the terrorist should be searched — no one is debating that.
We support Apple in its decision to oppose and challenge a federal court order to protect the basic rights of privacy and protection we deserve.
“Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation,” Cook said in a statement he wrote on apple.com. “In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.”
Essentially, this could allow our phones and tablets — containing all of our personal, private data — to be subject to others’ viewing without our permission or knowledge, as well as becoming more vulnerable to hackers. Our privacy and safety will be on the line.
This data is more than just seeing what music you’ve downloaded or what Instagram photos you’ve liked. Encryption protects online banking, current and previous locations, cloud storage, private messages, etc., according to east-tec.com. All of this could be available to anyone in the government or anyone who has hacked this software to access your personal data.
Our issue is not with the FBI having access to phones that contain data and information on terrorism cases. We trust that the FBI has procedures and regulations to use the software in its intended manner.
“Think of your phone as a bank,” said Matthew Green, cryptographer and associate professor at Johns Hopkins University, according to NPR. “Inside it is a safe that has your information — emails, messages, photos. The FBI is outside the bank, unable to get through the front door to try to crack the safe. So it’s asking Apple to help get inside the bank so it can set up a safecracking team to try various combinations to open it.”
Our issue, however, is what would happen if this software gets in the wrong hands or is duplicated providing access to anyone’s personal data and information.
“Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor,” Cook said in the statement. “And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”
Edward Snowden, board member of Freedom of the Press and a former employee for the National Security Agency, tweeted that the FBI would be able to attempt thousands of password combinations without the iPhone erasing all data after its usual 10 failed attempts and gain access to a phone’s data within 30 minutes.
Cook also expressed his concerns of the precedent this would set for other companies.
“We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack,” Cook said in his statement. “For years, cryptologists and national security experts have been warning against weakening encryption. Doing so would hurt only the well-meaning and law-abiding citizens who rely on companies like Apple to protect their data. Criminals and bad actors will still encrypt, using tools that are readily available to them.”
Giant companies like Apple usually have little to gain and a lot to lose by getting involved in political and government matters, yet Apple is rooted in its values.
If this software is created, what is going to stop those who desire to cause harm in our society to not hack into it, or even duplicate it? As Cook said, this software currently does not exist. It needs to stay that way.
We stand with Apple in its effort to protect our basic rights of privacy and prevent backdoors into our personal data, regardless of how well intentioned the FBI might be.
Society and technology is continuing to advance, and we are more connected to the world now than in any other time in history. With information so readily accessible, it is difficult to place trust in modern technology in this digital age. Apple, however, is setting a standard of respect and transparency for the tech industry that we can depend on.
Scroll Editorial: Approved by a 28-0 vote from the Scroll editorial board.