On Apple’s website yesterday, CEO Tim Cook posted a letter reassuring its customers that the encrypted iPhone data will not be compromised…even at the request of the government.
“February 16, 2016
A Message to Our Customers
The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.
This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake…”
What Tim Cook is responding to is in the Aftermath of the San Bernradino California shooting back in December, the FBI requested Apple’s help in recovering password-protected iPhone data that belonged to the shooters.
The FBI went as far as obtaining a court order from U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of California to force Apple to “supply highly specialized software the FBI can load onto the county-owned work iPhone to bypass a self-destruct feature, which erases the phone’s data after too many unsuccessful attempts to unlock it. The FBI wants to be able to try different combinations in rapid sequence until it finds the right one.”
Reading deeper into the letter on Apple’s website, Tim Cook expands on the need for encryption and why weakening said encryption for whatever reason is a slippery slope:
“…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, on 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.
The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.
We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack. For years, cryptologists and national security experts have been warning against weakening encryption. Doing so would hurt only the well-meaning and law-abiding citizens who rely on companies like Apple to protect their data. Criminals and bad actors will still encrypt, using tools that are readily available to them…”
This is not a new argument as Silicon Valley and the U.S. government have frequently been on the opposite ends of the privacy versus safety debate. Tech companies have been very vocal about the dangers of allowing the government to access private data trusted to tech companies (via their devices) by its customers. Conversely, the government has argued that there are certain instances like terror attacks where accessing specific data from specific individuals could help the government learn more about past attacks and even prevent future threats.
For now, Apple has decided to take a stand and resist any requests by the government, court ordered or not, to keep our iPhone data password-protected, encrypted data, well…password-protected and encrypted. We will have to see how far this debate goes.
Where Do You Stand?
Since it’s OUR data that tech companies want to protect and it’s OUR data that the government wants to access in order to protect us, do you think it was right for Apple to “Just Say No” to the FBI in the name of keeping our data secure from even the government? Or do you feel that the government should have some type of access to specific, court-ordered consumer data in the name of possibly preventing future attacks that could jeopardize our safety?
What say you?