In an interesting turn of events, the tech industry’s largest — and normally combative — companies have joinedtheirvoices against a common threat: the FBI’s attempt to force Apple to hack the iPhone used by the San Bernadino shooter. Apple has said no, and other technology companies are backing Apple. The core issue is this: Compliance with the FBI’s mandate opens the door for similar requests for any company to hack their own products and provide access to customer data.
After the Snowden incident, Apple made changes to its software to make the data on their devices accessible only to someone who has the device passcode. In other words, even they can’t hack it. Now the FBI wants Apple to create a custom iOS that would in essence eliminate or override the safeguards Apple has put in place.
From a technology security perspective, the problems with this request are many, but the real question at hand is this: Does the workaround give the FBI the right to use it on other iPhones when they deem the situation warrants it?
From a personal privacy perspective, the problems are even greater. If this court order is upheld and Apple is compelled to change or weaken its encryption for the U.S., it will be like a house of cards. Other countries with less stringent regulations, such as China, will ask for the same, and Apple will be compelled to comply.
The Apple request pits a government’s right to encroach on their citizens’ privacy against a company’s right to create secure software. Apple is taking a stand not only for the security of its own devices, but for technology security as a whole, and for the personal privacy of all of us as well.