Apple Inc. always gets a lot of attention but lately, it has received a lot more of it than usual. The tech giant is still grappling around in the dirt with the U.S. government. Although last week’s news suggested the company had freed itself from Uncle Sam’s legal headlock, it seems as though Apple won’t be allowed to walk away from its battle with the FBI until it undermines its own encryption.
Federal prosecutors are now opening a new case against the worlds most successful corporation. Though the government’s goal is still the same as it has been for the past few months, Apple is now expected to offer is assistance in order to unlock an iPhone seized in a New York drug case.
Apple can help against terrorism
The U.S. government’s interest in Apple’s iPhone decryption began not long after an alleged terrorist attack took place in San Bernardino, Calif. A total of 14 lives were lost as a result of the shootings. Salvaged to form part of the subsequent FBI case was an iPhone belonging to one of the gunmen — Syed Rizwan Farook. The device was suspected to hold valuable information that could assist in bringing justice to those behind the attack, as well as answers to the families of the victims.
There stood one problem though. The gunman’s iPhone was password protected. Further, enough failed attempts at the unknown code would’ve wiped the handset’s hard drive clean of its content. What the FBI needed in order to pursue this lead was for Apple to engineer a way to bypass the iPhone’s encryption. The tech firm was quickly labeled as the only thing standing in the way of justice. The resulting battle between the two entities is still ongoing.
As tensions appeared to be reaching their peak last week, something unanticipated occurred. It was reported that Apple Inc. was no longer needed to unlock the iPhone held in custody. The U.S. government had apparently managed to decrypt the gunmen’s handset via an undisclosed third party. This somewhat swept the rug from right under Apple’s feet, which had the support of many backing its stance. And so a simmering legal scandal which had held our attention for weeks quickly died down to an anti-climatic halt.
Whether Apple was right by not giving in to the FBI’s request is still an essentially contested topic. The company insisted that undermining its own security encryption would jeopardize the security and privacy of all its consumers. Agreeing to give the government the means to unlock one iPhone, it says — even as a once-off event — would form the grounds for similar requests to be made in the future.
Both parties were obviously in a difficult position, but neither was willing to back down. The privacy assurances the company offers its users is part and parcel of the products it makes. Indeed, many smartphone users opt for the iPhone because of its tight security measures. Breaking into its own security systems for the benefit of a third party would greatly upset the secure and premium handset brand it’s built over the years.
For the FBI, a terrorist attack had taken place and the bureau need as many answers as it could get. Any lead is vital, and Apple stood as a key to a locked door, possibly filled with helpful data. It is the government’s duty to protect its people and to do so through the most effecient and effective means possible. This mean it has to constantly build its arsenal of tools used to police and protect the U.S.A. Apple’s moral standpoint is made further irrelevant by the idea of the government losing to a single company. It is very important to the federal state’s image for it to not walk away defeated.
Apple can help the war on drugs
This is most likely why the Feds are still trying to force the tech firm into submission. Last week’s development proved only that Apple was rendered irrelevant in that one particular case. But of course there are plenty other confiscated iPhone’s that need Apple’s decryption. Another point is that no definitive winner emerged from this huge legal battle.
“The government continues to require Apple’s assistance in accessing the data that it is authorized to search by warrant,” prosecutors wrote on the matter.
The light may have dimmed on the San Bernardino case, but the FBI is still intent on getting a way to unlock the iPhones of criminals. Apple’s defense team said they still won’t give in without a fight. They intend to make federal prosecutors explain why the can’t access the iPhone in question and which other parties will be involved. Apple’s lawyers also reported that they aren’t surprised by the government’s revived attempt to get it to write decryption software for the iPhone. The company alluded to its earlier statement about one iPhone decryption not be enough.
The topic of encryption has been a highly controversial matter in recent years. Apple Inc. is not the first entity to have entered desputes with governments over privacy-related battles. The likes of BlackBerry Ltd, Samsung, Microsoft and even Facebook have all been approached by governments for their assistance in getting data. However, handing over personal information to third parties is an extreme violation of privacy regardless of the grounds on which it is done.
For businesses, it diminishes brand integrity and the trust built between them and their users. That’s not to say the authorities are necessarily the villains it such matters either. In many instances, gaining personal info from tech giants has lead to the success of many cases. It is, however, a slippery slope. It is clear right now that Apple Inc. is probably in for a long series of battles against the FBI.
Should Apple assist the FBI by undermining its own security? Is the firm right by holding its ground against the government’s intrusion. Let us know you thoughts.