Apple won’t unlock its phone- shines spotlight on surveillance possibilities of emerging tech
Last week Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, released a letter to customers only hours after a California judge ordered that the company unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.
The letter lays out Apple’s reasoning behind its decision to fight the court order to help federal authorities unlock the phone, stating its belief that the case could set “a dangerous precedent” for the future.
Cook's letter states,
“The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”
Cook’s surveillance fear is becoming more and more of a hot button issue in the technology space. Earlier this month, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, acknowledged for the first time that agencies might use smart household devices to increase their surveillance capabilities.
In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Bruce Schneier stated, “The FBI sees this as a privacy vs. security debate, while the tech community sees it as a security vs. surveillance debate.
The phone in debate belonged to Syed Rizwan Farook, who was killed alongside his wife after attacking co-workers at a holiday gathering. The shooting left fourteen people dead. Josh Earnest said on behalf of the White House last week that the Justice Department and the F.B.I. have the White House’s “full support”.
To the FBI, this is a case of national security, but to Apple, this case is a Pandora’s box. Apple does not accept that unlocking Farook’s phone will not affect how much control technology companies have over their own user security in the future.
Cook's letter also states,
“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.”
Edward Snowden, the ex-NSA contractor who was the first to bring government surveillance to the public eye in a major way, has (unsurprisingly) declared his support for Apple.
While Snowden pre-dated Cook in his push to create a national dialog regarding the balance between national security and information privacy, many people (mostly those holding an iPhone) feel directly affected by the battle at hand.
Cook, like Snowden, has placed importance on the task of informing the general public of what government surveillance means in relation to everyday lives. Cook’s letter calls for a public discussion regarding the balance between national security and the privacy at stake.