Wireless electronic devices such as cell phones are among our most personal and intimate possessions, they also became essential tools for full participation in communication therefore they can be regarded in modern life as powerful tracking devices that can potentially violate individual privacy. In 2016, the FBI filed a lawsuit against large tech-company Apple for its refusal to unlock the phone of an arrested terrorist, Syed Rizwan Farook, behind the San Bernardino terror attack that took place in late 2015. The FBI wants to unlock the phone as it can serve as a vital part of their investigation because without Apple’s cooperation, Farook’s phone is almost impossible to hack due to increased security which Apple offers as a standard. Our group stands with FBI on this issue.
This issue is significant because it is a matter of FBI prioritizing the national security versus Apple protecting individual privacy. FBI is persistent in persuading Apple to unlock the phone because the said terror attack is the second deadliest mass shooting in California’s history and the worst terror attack in the United States since in 9/11. In a statement dated February 21st 2016, FBI director James Comey explained that the FBI wanted the chance to seek justice for the victims and possibly locate terrorists associated with the perpetrators of this attack and that without such a solution the government organization has been failing in terms of its intelligence gathering effort. In defense of Apple, they argue that if the order is granted it will undermine the security of all Apple devices and set a dangerous precedent for future cases. According to them, unlocking the phone would undo years of technological progress for personal privacy. However, in defense of the FBI, it must be emphasized that no personal privacy will be violated because Farook is dead, and the phone wasn’t even his: It belongs to the municipal agency that employed him, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, which assigned the phone to him for work purposes. Farook waived any conceivable privacy interest by signing an acknowledgment that the SBCDPH could search the phone at any time. And the SBCDPH, which is cooperating with the FBI, consents to the search of its phone.
Another important note to take is that refusal to unlock Farook’s iPhone is risking everybody’s security. Unlocking the phone may help the FBI to conduct further investigation about the terrorist attack. It is only one iPhone in the interest of the American people’s safety. Protecting the terrorist’s privacy, which is now questionable knowing that the phone primarily was not his, may risk the lives of many people. It may also hinder law enforcement agencies to gain visibility of workings of the criminals, therefore putting the lives of more people at risk. Apple can simply decrypt the iPhone and give FBI just the information they need, if they find any, considering that they really refuse to hand them everything.
Another important argument is surrendering your privacy rights to the government in exchange for your protection should be right if kept under surveillance to avoid abuse of data, Apple must cooperate with the government with the case but has limitations and by that Apple’s privacy and data will not be abused and still has the capacity to kept investigation under their watch. Apple can assure their security by surrendering it to the government only with their own supervision, thus upholding the privacy and safety from terrorists given that the government had several compliances with the same matter and safety can be ensured.
Last argument is that the FBI is not asking for access to every iPhone user, they are asking for this case’s investigation. They are requesting to unlock the iPhone without wiping the data so that a more thorough investigation can be done. But According Apple, FBI is trying to force a “backdoor” to the iPhones. Apple CEO Tim Cook said that “you can’t have a backdoor that’s only for the good guys, that any backdoor is something that bad guys can exploit.” Apple’s worry is that if they decrypt one phone, that will weaken the legitimacy of security on all devices. However, this reason became doubtful when it was discovered that the FBI had asked to unlock iPhones before, and Apple has complied. According to Harris (2016), Apple has unlocked iPhones for authorities at least 70 times since 2008, and Apple does not dispute this figure.
To conclude, the case marked one of the highest-profile clashes in the debate over encryption and data privacy between the government and a technology company. Law enforcement authorities say that encryption used by the likes of Apple makes it harder for them to solve cases and stop terrorist attacks (Kharpal, 2016). Even if the FBI’s demands are feasible Apple doesn’t want them to appear so if the company assists in the decryption of Farook’s phone then they prove that Apple security is navigable and undermine their own brand saying that “forcing Apple to extract data could threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand.” It appears as if that Apple is just using the protection of their customer’s privacy as an excuse to not harm their reputation and to not deal with a longer-term economic impact beyond the mere cost of performing the single extraction at issue. It also needs to be pointed out that Apple can already remotely access their products, which means a layer of control is built-in to the iPhone. Privacy, as many of us understood it, no longer exists. People are quick to defend their rights to privacy. What they fail to recognize is that by subscribing to the terms and conditions of many popular social media sites, for example, they abandon their privacy with the check of a box. According to an article by the Huffington Post, information such as “birthday, gender, place of birth, religious beliefs, friends, family members, schools attended, and other intimate details would be available to anyone who wanted them.” Things are not as private as people would like to think and despite Apple’s refusal to help, FBI still managed to unlock the phone in the end through the help of a third party, which proves that Apple’s security is not as invulnerable as they claim it to be.