19 Feb Privacy vs. national security in FBI’s effort to unlock iPhone
This week we were tasked with looking up presenting a case that typifies “the struggles with ethical issues” related to technological innovation. I chose the FBI’s attempt to get Apple to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino attackers.
The FBI says information on the phone is vital to its investigation, but the phone is encrypted, and the technology doesn’t currently exist to access it. The company says it’s already given the FBI access to information stored on its iCloud service, but earlier this week the company’s chief executive officer, Tim Cook, said he would fight a judge’s order that effectively calls for the technology juggernaut to create software that would an end-run around its encryption program, which wipes out data on a phone after 10 failed attempts of entering a password.
News of the judge’s order elicited a flurry of responses from my Digital Communications classmates, some of whom believe Apple is wrong and side with national security interests, while others, including myself, say Cook should fight the order because it would no doubt have a broader impact on society. If Apple unlocks the iPhone (in this case the 5C), it gives hackers a better chance to access our information and gives government another opportunity to abuse its power (see data mining revelations by Edward Snowden).
The New York Times editorialized today that Cook is correct in this position, in part because the government has so many other ways to get information, and because programmers of future models are likely to make it impossible to create back doors into cellphones. Mashable put it’s view succinctly in its headline on the issue: If Apple loses to the FBI, we’re all screwed.