Apple Opposes FBI in the Encryption Debate
Donald Trump likes to paint himself as the ultimate Washington outsider. To be fair, he has a point. All his blustering and posturing has even his own party hating him. On certain issues, however, he seems to fit right in with the dominant administrative modus operandi; in this case, encrypted devices. The big news yesterday came out when Apple CEO Tim Cook penned an open letter explaining the company’s decision to refuse a court order from Judge Sheri Pym of the Federal District Court for the District of Central California, to bypass the security on the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists, which law enforcement wants as part of their investigation into the attack that happened in December.
“To think that Apple won’t allow us to get into her cellphone? Who do they think they are?” demanded Trump, the man who once tried to get Bill Gates to “close up” the Internet. For all his aggressive disruption of traditional political campaigns, and mission statement of supposedly shaking up the status quo, the Donald is in lockstep here with such officials as FBI director James Comey, who we have discussed in the past.
Looking at the actual issue in question, however, reveals, unsurprisingly, a more complicated picture. Sure, at first glance, it’s easy to distance oneself from the problem, easy to say “It’s not my phone they’re trying to crack, but a dead terrorist’s, so what’s the harm?” It’s a reasonable question to ask, and obviously no one, Apple included, wants terrorists to be able to carry out their plans. The problem is in specifically what the authorities are demanding, which is that Apple create special software, a new OS, that would act as a skeleton key capable of getting around essential security functions. According to Mr. Cook, despite federal insistence to the contrary, such a tool does amount to creating a “back door” in the encryption—“something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create.”
Why dangerous? Again, contrary to what the government may argue, there is no guarantee that the proper authorities would retain sole access to this back door, or that the government would not demand this master key again themselves in the future, and for other phones. Once the key is created, so is the risk that it falls into the wrong hands, putting countless people’s devices and personal data at risk. What Apple is being told to build, then, is essentially and inescapably a vulnerability, for all devices.
We know where Trump stands. What are your thoughts on Apple taking on Washington?