By now you have likely heard about the FBI’s demand, issued via a Federal Court Judge in Riverside California, that Apple turn over a non-existent program to brute force the password on an iPhone. As far as anyone knows, this program does not exist, and yet they were given only 5 days to comply. As interesting as this disconnect with reality is generally, it is not what I found most curious. For me, the most fascinating part of this entire exchange is that the FBI, with all of its resources, cannot open a locked iPhone. Think about that for a minute.
The judge ordered:
“Apple’s reasonable technical assistance shall accomplish the following three important functions: (1) it will bypass or disable the auto-erase function whether or not it has been enabled; (2) it will enable the FBI to submit passcodes to the SUBJECT DEVICE for testing electronically via the physical device port, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or other protocol available on the SUBJECT and (3) it will ensure that when the FBI submits passcodes to the SUBJECT DEVICE, software running on the device will not purposefully introduce any additional delay between passcode attempts beyond what is incurred by Apple hardware.”
The Wall Street Journal initially reported Thursday that Senator Richard Burr (R North Carolina) the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was preparing to introduce legislation which would provide criminal penalties against companies that refused to actively work with the government to in decrypting technology. It appears that latter that same day the Senator had changed his mind.
This most recent issue is coming to us because of the San Bernardino attack in December of 2015. The government is attempting to access the husband, Syed Farook’s, work iPhone and apparently cannot get into it. As everyone should be furious about this ISIS related attack, the people should support the governments demand for access. For justice. One can hope that people see more broadly than that.
This is not an exception. Apple created the default encryption on its devices so that it could not comply with these kinds of demands; and we should not want them to. It seems that every day we add one more bit of information to our devices making them more highly personal. If you use Apple Pay, your banking information. Medical records, passwords, documents, pictures, email. For the sake of safety, these devices need to be locked down.
Once we open the backdoor to encryption, you can be certain of two things. First, the government will be able to peak in whenever they want, warrant or no warrant. History has already proven that. Second, the more nefarious parts of society will get the same access, and they may be able to use it to steal your money, and your identity.
Bad humans will always be able to do bad things. I cannot foresee any way we will ever overcome this reality. We can accept this fact, demand our privacy, and simply admit to each other that we will always face the risk of criminal and extremist behavior, or we can play pretend. We can pretend that by giving away more privacy, we will be suddenly and magically 100% safe.
What do you value? Do we prefer society to be as fee and private as possible, letting each person live as public or private a life as they elect, or do we subscribe to the idea that by removing this privacy, we might somehow eradicate crime?