Burning Issues

Whose side are you taking in this? Apple VS FBI

Apple VS FBI on privacy
Written by Igor K


If Apple wants to be the official smartphone of terrorists and criminals, there will be a consequence,” states the Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery in his news release.

The release opens with the decision “to discontinue providing iPhones as an option for replacements or upgrades for existing employees.”

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery announced the decision on February 24, citing Apple’s recent refusal to cooperate in unlocking an encrypted iPhone used by individuals involved in the recent San Bernardino shootings.

Apple’s refusal to cooperate with a legitimate law enforcement investigation to unlock a phone used by terrorists puts Apple on the side of terrorists instead of on the side of public safety,” Montgomery said. “Positioning their refusal to cooperate as having anything to do with privacy interests is a corporate PR stunt and ignores the 4th Amendment protections afforded by our Constitution.”

Apple claims this to be the reason why they won’t cooperate in San Bernardino terrorist attack case

Ever since Edward Snowden blew the whistle about plans and efforts of some US based federal agencies, big tech players are rejecting legal requests to create some sort of one-for-all access key to encrypted data of suspects’ smartphones.

Since September 2014, data on Apple’s devices, such as messages or photos are secured with the automatic encryption. When device is locked, only the user can access the data. Punch wrong password 10 times and all data will automatically be erased.

Apple claims that not even their employees can access the data; the rule which they’ve implemented after Snowden’s report about NSA’s surveillance plans, practice and policy.

It appears that Apple is vigorously protecting users’ privacy by rejecting any form of assistance in unlocking the data from Farook’s iPhone.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has this to say about the whole thing: “…We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

And it can’t be “guaranteed” because once revealed (read: used for the first time ever), the method can be adjusted to unlock any device running on Apple’s operating system.

We are not talking about few digits passwords here. We are talking about the entire new operating system that would be used to decrypt user’s data on iPhone. In a digital world or the underground world of hackers, that means this: no device is safe.

Because, in reality, you don’t need the password to hack into someone’s device. You need the bypass method. And what FBI is requesting from Apple is such global method where government agencies throughout the world would be able to pinpoint your location and access every single piece of data you’ve stored into your device but most likely through the device in cloud storage also. Once they obtain the access, they are able to use the device same way you’re using it.

And knowing how intelligence agencies and governments are operating, it wouldn’t be long before US government starts sharing the backdoor access with “allies.”

Do you really want some FBI agent to know your exact position in every given moment? Do you really want them to see the porn you and your wife made few nights ago?

On the hand, we are talking about terrorism here

Farook has allegedly been communicating with other like-minded people and maybe even with some high-ranking individuals from IS so his iPhone is most likely filled with valuable data that could potentially prevent some future terrorist attack(s) and save lives.

We can all agree that human life is the most valuable thing in our society. As such, we should do every effort to save that one single life. Even if it means to “bend” the rules or expectations sometimes.

It’s even hard to comprehend that someone is willing to sacrifice 1, 10, 100 or even couple of thousands of human lives to prove his point or protect privacy.

The big question

In one hand, we have a privacy issue. We are all aware that once decryption method goes live, it will become easy to access anyone’s device in any given time. 

But in the other, we may have a key for saving lives. Just remember that Paris scenario would most likely be prevented if French intelligence agencies had an unlimited surveillance access.

Which one is more important?

Let’s hear your opinion and reasonable argument.


About the author

Igor K

Former detective, now entrepreneur with the passion for applied investigative journalism, profiling, personal development and business analyses.