Apple vs. The FBI, Is Apple Right Or Wrong?

On December 2, 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik attacked a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health training event and holiday party. The terrorist attack lead to 14 people being kills, and an additional 22 seriously injured. Syed Rizwan Farook was employed by San Bernardino County, and was given an iPhone 5C to use for work. The FBI has tried to access the shooter’s iPhone, but haven’t been able to get past the passcode. Another option is the iCloud back-up, but the device hadn’t been backed up for six weeks prior to the incident. The FBI has requested Apple create a new version of iOS to access the device, but Apple has refused to create the so-called “backdoor”, as it undermines the security of all of their products.
There are clear motives, and underlying motives for both Apple and the FBI in this case, but the question is whether Apple is right in refusing to cooperate with the government. Those who think Apple is in the wrong are looking at this as a single case that is a devastating terrorist attack. Apple is looking at this as a precedent setting decision that will impact a wide variety of future cases. If Apple were to make a backdoor into iOS, it wouldn’t just be for this particular iPhone 5C, but rather every iPhone out there. That means that the FBI could use this tool for any case that involves an iPhone potentially holding relevant information. Furthermore, once the backdoor exists, it could go beyond the FBI, and potentially fall into the hands of hackers, cyber criminals, and even other governments.

If you look at the San Bernardino shooting by itself, then you don’t understand why Apple is taking such a hard stance on this. When you think about the larger ramifications, then you see that Apple is thinking about privacy in the future. Think about the information that can be stored on the iPhone including financial information with Apple Pay. Would you want that information to be accessible with a single use tool that can’t truly be controlled? To make matters worse for the FBI, one agent reset the iCloud password on the account from the work e-mail address, but doing so rendered the device unable to back-up to iCloud without the passcode. The FBI claims the back-up would be insufficient, but on the flip side, it’s still unknown what the phone holds, and if there’s anything even relevant to the case on the shooter’s work phone. This is quite a chance to take to just look for more evidence, rather than knowing they will find evidence.
Apple has long been known for creating a “walled garden”, and it has been viewed in a negative light. The idea is that Apple locks down iOS devices allowing for limited customization as compared to the Android smartphone in particular. The walled garden though has made a relatively secure device that the FBI can’t access without Apple;s help. Every new iPhone, and version of iOS has pushed more security features, and Apple is even working to make it so even they can’t access an iOS device. Apple sells hardware first and foremost, and you could view this stance as a marketing ploy that emphasizes the security of their devices. The ramifications of a backdoor into an iPhone seem to counteract that idea. The FBI claims they only want it for this case, but having that tool seems very valuable for the government in future cases, and even surveillance. There’s more than meets the eye for both sides, and yet Apple seems to be in the right because this decision for both sides is for more than just this one case, no matter how devastating this case is.


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