To Unlock or Keep Locked? That’s the Question

Whether you saw an article online, watch it on the news, or talked it over with a co-worker, you have probably heard about the dispute between Apple and the FBI over unlocking an iPhone. The iPhone in question belongs to one of the shooters (Sted Rizwan Farook) from the San Bernardino Massacre that occurred on December 2nd, 2015. The FBI wants to unlock his phone in hopes that they can gain crucial information on possible future terrorist attacks/terrorists. Nevertheless, Apple does not want to comply with the FBI for privacy and security reasons.

Apple, as well as numerous other people in the tech community, has stated that creating a “backdoor” into the iPhone’s encryption could put a lot of other people’s phones’ privacy and security at risk. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, said that a backdoor would be the “software equivalent to cancer”.

The FBI has then stated that they would only want Apple to use it this one time for this one phone, but that most likely wouldn’t be true. Even if the FBI only wanted Apple to unlock this one phone, the software or whatever Apple uses to decrypt their phones, could still get leaked. But it is also known that the FBI has other cases similar to the San Bernardino iPhone case that the FBI would love to use this decryption on too. The FBI director Comey even stated in the March 1st, 2016 congressional meeting that the FBI winning this case would probably lead to further iPhone decrypting implications.

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What all this boils down to is how this debate will lay as precedent in future encounters between the law enforcement and technology companies. The precedent being that companies could be forced to weaken their security. If Apple has to give in this one time, who is to say that down the road that they wouldn’t be forced to comply again? This makes other tech companies, like Microsoft and Google, vulnerable too because if one company has to oblige, why don’t others?

A federal magistrate judge in New York has just recently ruled that Apple does not have to help the New York law enforcement extract data from a phone involved in a local drug case. It will be interesting to see if the California court agrees with the New York judge or not. However, everyone involved (Apple, FBI, and even legislators) believe this case is best suited for Congress, and we agree – we should end this argument once and for all!