After refusing a request from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to open a locked iPhone that was used in a terrorist-related shooting in San Bernardino, CA, Apple is said to be increasing its security measures to prevent their technology from being hacked by law enforcement.
According to experts, it is almost certain that Apple will succeed in upgrading their security. While the current security measures have caused legal fights, as seen in the San Bernardino case, increased security measures would make it even more difficult for law enforcement agencies such as the F.B.I. to hack the iPhones of suspected criminals, which could cause even more court battles.
While federal wiretapping laws do require that traditional phone carriers, such as Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile, make their data accessible to law enforcement agencies, those laws do not affect companies like Apple and Google. There have been attempts to pass legislation to cover the companies, but they have strongly resisted any attempts, and so far, none have been successful.
The only way out of the scenario would be for Congress to get involved. “We are in for an arms race unless and until Congress decides to clarify who has obligations in situations like this,” said Benjamin Wittes, a senior employee at the Brookings Institution, in an article with The New York Times. The Brookings Institution is a private nonprofit independent research organization based in Washington, focusing on research and education in the social sciences.
The pressure for Apple to help the F.B.I. unlock the San Bernardino shooters’ iPhones started after the shootings, which took place on Dec. 2, 2015. Fourteen people were killed in a local social service center after a married man and woman opened fire. Both shooters were killed in a police shootout after the attack. Syed Farook, the male shooter, left behind a locked iPhone 5C. Since then, the F.B.I. has been trying to unlock the phone in order to gain more information regarding the attack, but have so far been unsuccessful.
Apple has refused to help with the investigation. Presidential intelligence officials met with Apple CEO Tim Cook to get the phone unlocked, but Apple resisted. The company was later ordered to bypass the security lock by Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym. The F.B.I. asked Apple to create a decrypting software that would bypass Apple’s entire security system. The organization has full support from the government and the White House, but Apple has continually refused.
“In this confrontation with the F.B.I., Apple is in the right,” said Rupa Dasgupta, an adjunct professor in the University’s IT department. “At a time when other tech companies, such as AT&T, have recently been revealed as having been complicit in our government’s spying on its citizens, it’s refreshing to see such a prominent company finally take a stance to protect its customers’ privacy.”
While it may seem obvious that Apple should unlock the iPhone in question, if only to help with the federal investigation and make sure that there are no other attacks planned, the reality is not so simple. According to Cook, the government is demanding a breach of privacy and overstepping its boundaries; creating the requested software would set a dangerous precedent of privacy invasion and could be used to hack any iPhone. Cook’s full response was written in a well-publicized letter, which is now available on Apple’s website.
Dasgupta offered her opinion on the possible negative effects of a decrease in Apple security. “As many others have said, it’s not just this one particular iPhone that the F.B.I. is interested in, it’s all iPhones. If the F.B.I. was to get access to the kind of software they’re trying to coerce Apple to develop, there would be nothing to stop them from using it with impunity against whoever they chose. This kind of precedent would make it possible for governments all over the world to break into the phones of anyone they deemed a threat. With an outspoken racist and misogynist bigot who has advocated for the killing of civilians inching closer towards the presidency in this country, it’s not difficult to perceive how dangerous it would be for governments to have such a tool,” said Dasgupta.
“I think its right that Apple won’t unlock it,” said Christina Caliando, a sophomore communication student. “Maybe the F.B.I. has that technology first, but then it might trickle down. Next thing you know, any cop could just order you to hand over your phone without having to provide probable cause or anything, and that could cause so many problems with privacy.”
Dasgupta also quoted NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that seems to fit the situation extremely well. “Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”
While there is no clear answer yet, Apple has continued to resist all requests and orders to unlock the iPhone or create the software that the F.B.I. has requested. An order from the Supreme Court may be the next step in the matter.
IMAGE TAKEN from https://www.appthority.com