Sunday, February 21, 2016

In the Government vs. Apple, Who Wears the Black Hat?

                The dispute between Apple and the U.S, government over the access to the iPhone of one the San Bernardino gunman is a divisive one.  Basically, the dispute is over who should have more control over who has access to private information, the government, or the company who makes the products this information is stored in?  Apple believes that by allowing the government access directly to encrypted data in the phone, not just the backups available in their cloud technology, it would lead to a slippery slope.  IPhones are sold in countries like Pakistan, where homosexual acts are punishable by death, and in Saudi Arabia, where adultery is illegal.  Total government control could lead to social justice violations, as well as a continued lack of privacy, which has plagued tech companies for the past several years.  Every month, companies like Microsoft, Facebook, and Google publish transparency reports in which companies turned over data from users because of a court order.  Apple has done this too, most of the time, saying that they would provide data whenever they were “technically able”.  Not only has Apple switched off its ability to retrieve data from its products in an update in 2014, but compromising it’s users data would discredit their business model.  Apple is also working on strengthening its encryption of iCloud, similar to it’s phone encryption, that would make it difficult for even them to get the data.  What the government is asking is not for a key to Apple’s encryptions, but rather a “weaker lock”.  Again, this can set a very dangerous precedent, where any data can be freely accessed by Government agencies. 
                A lot of people may think that since Syed Rizwan Farook, the shooter in question, was a criminal, that he forfeits rights to any privacy.  While this article isn’t a defense of a criminal, its trying to shed light on what could happen as a result of Apple backing down.  Agencies like the N.S.A. have abused their power several times already, like the 2013 incident revealed by Edward Snowden that showed that the agency hacked into fiber optic lines that connected Yahoo and Google to data servers outside the U.S., even though the N.S.A. already had access to the information on them.  As a result, Google and Yahoo beefed up their encryption. The N.S.A. has already showed that it would abuse its power to invade privacy if given the chance.
                It also brings into question how up to date our laws are on privacy.  In this case, to compel Apple to submit to the warrant, a judge used the All Write act of 1789, a law passed before electricity.  We need to have a serious talk about the legality of privacy and infringements on it in all cases, not just when dealing with criminals.  This will be a hot topic issue in the next election, as Donald Trump has already protested Apple products as a result.


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