Soon after its publication, I read ‘A letter to our customers’ written by Apple CEO Tim Cook. Since then, a flood of articles, posts and discussions have followed. Why should any of us be interested?
Quite simply, the implications are far reaching and scary.
Triggered by the FBI’s need to access the content of the iPhone of one of the key San Bernardino killers, a fight has erupted between Apple and the FBI. A court order activating a law written in 1789 is poised to force Apple to assist it’s investigations.
For most of us, we have, in a reasonably short time, become complacent about the enormous wealth of data innocuously stored on our smartphones. Tim Cook reminds us
Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.
If you’ve ever misplaced your smartphone or worse lost it, you’ll be very familiar with the overwhelming physical and emotional anguish which engulfs and grips you. Even though most of us don’t understand how, we know that our data is protected and safe. Data is encrypted.
The right to privacy, the encryption of data on our smartphones is the root of Apple’s concern and is the reason for going public with this open letter.
In short, the US Government is demanding that Apple create a backdoor to the iPhone by creating a new version of the iPhone operating system that circumvents several important security features.
This demand began with the FBI approaching Apple to help them access data on the iPhone of San Bernardino killer Syed Farook. Apple, for reasons outlined in this open letter, have refused to cooperate. The FBI has now pursued court proceedings to force Apple to help them with their ongoing investigation of Farook’s involvement. The Apple CEO is refusing to comply.
Cook’s fear is basic:
The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again (to open) any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.”
Cook has exposed the demands being placed on Apple for the simple reason that he believes that an open discussion needs to be held. The issues are complex. A simple explanation can be found on this post: Apple vs the FBI – a plain English guide.
Scroll to the end of an op ed written by John McAfee, a member of the Libertarian Party, who is running in the US Presidency campaign, to see a short excellent video which captures the argument very succinctly.
This sounds like a David and Goliath kind of battle, one which reminds me of the fight against Internet censorship which was famously waged by Aaron Swartz in 2012. Swartz, who sadly lost his life during this ongoing battle, was a brilliant contributor to our world.
So ….. are we now staring down the barrel of a government ‘gun’ forcing its demands upon a company to comply on the premise that this will be in the best interests of the people?