Data Protection and Privacy
The subject matter is simple: Apple is being asked by the FBI to cooperate and help in unlocking an iPhone owned by a shooter of the San Bernardino killings on December 2nd 2015. One might think that the FBI is investigating a foreign act of terror committed by a terroristic group, while it was actually carried out by two lawfully permitted residents of America. In essence, it is an act of terror executed in America, on American soil and now the dispute between Apple and the FBI is about the protection of America. “More than a dozen motions” were filed by Apple to avoid the demand in writing software helping to unlock the iPhone to discover potential suspects or connections to the mass shooting.
This defensive strategy undertaken by Apple shows the ambivalent decision of protecting (and keep protecting) users’ privacy while, on the other hand, aiding national security. The per se secure iPhone would be vulnerable to the outside if the encryption and thus a form of a master key is presented. This possibility would also require companies to “degrade the security” and therefore undermine the trust in Apple’s products. The formation of a strong bond between Apple and “Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and 15 tech companies collectively worth more than $2tn” signifies a strong opposition towards the judicial order, claiming it “exceeds the bounds of existing law”. The alliances can be seen as an act of pulling on the same rope as all those companies would impair their image and give rise to potential loss in customers who value privacy.
In case the court order goes through, an implication would be that other nations (most likely also those displaying some sort of dictatorship) could order their legal system to force multinational tech companies to display data on users that committed a crime. Additionally, hackers would have an easy game as personal information could easily be hacked after knowing of the existence of Apple’s master key. One should not forget that the FBI is trying to protect its citizens and companies should not “shield those who break the law”. The decision to proceed is a difficult one; should one follow moral or ethics? Alternatively, we live in a world where perfect privacy is a dream equilibrium that might seem to exist in theory, but in reality user’s information is accessible- as can be seen by Edward Snowden and various leaks of private information.
In conclusion, it might become more obvious why tech companies join against a court order, which would harm their image, but one should not forget that an act of terror happened and all possible power should be used in trying to prevent further terror attacks. The implication of a positive court order also suggests that for future demands to “hack” an iPhone, one must again ask for permission, so the fear of tech companies that all other governments might be able to ask for such a request is justified, but for assistance in solving crimes it should be possible.
WRITTEN BY PHILIPP MARTYS FOR BESA
PLEASE DIRECT ANY INQUIRY TO AS.BESA@UNIBOCCONI.IT