It was a battle of two heavyweights. In the blue corner, the United States government. In the, well, equally blue corner, Apple. And the tech world couldn’t microwave popcorn fast enough to keep up with the exciting twists and turns.
For those of you who haven’t heard, the FBI wanted Apple to break into an iPhone previously owned by one of the San Bernardino shooters, stating they wanted the information from the phone in case there was news about impending terrorist attacks. Geez, everyone knows that sort of thing gets sent into the Cloud these days…
Anyway, Apple refused, citing their belief the government would use whatever they created to hack into one iPhone as a “skeleton key” for other iPhones. As a result, the government sued Apple. Then, miracle of miracles, the government figured out a way to get into the iPhone (i.e. they got a 4 year old to do it) and suddenly dropped the suit against Apple. So, win-win, right?
Not so much. On the one hand, Apple still has the proprietary technology used in iPhones, but now they know the government has figured out a way to circumvent that technology. And, surprise surprise, the government isn’t going to let Apple have information on the security flaws with the iPhone.
On the other hand, the federal government attempted to force a major company to help them with a terrorism investigation. At first, it was a request, but once the government lawyered up, it turned into an attempt at forced compliance. But as long as it was for national security, it makes it okay, right?
Wellllll…that’s where the problem lies for me. After 9/11, government found a new excuse to take more tax dollars to fund pet projects by slapping a “national security issue” sticker on proposed spending. Want your local First Responders to have a Sherman Tank for weekends? It’s national security! Want to bail out the airline industry, which was already failing before 9/11? It’s national security! Heck, I’m surprised the National Endowment for the Arts didn’t try to get more funding for itself by claiming bad art is linked to national security.
Regardless, the Apple standoff showed us there is a fine line between freedom and security. I’m not a big fan of getting attacked by terrorists, but I’m also not a big fan of government using the threat of a terrorist attack to justify further overreach into our freedoms. Especially when it’s clear the government may not have needed Apple’s cooperation in the first place. So, why did the government go through the motions of this Kabuki theater?
Once you give the government a little bit of control, they aren’t too keen on giving it back. That’s why it’s important to use some critical thinking when a situation like what happened to Apple arises. What happens from here is dependent upon the morals and ethics of the government.
In other words, we’re screwed.