By Cameron M. Bray ’16
It seems that the classic, post-9/11 debate of security versus privacy has come to boil once again.
Relying on the “All Writs Act of 1789,” Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of the Federal District Court for the District of Central California ordered Feb. 15 the technology company Apple to create a special software to bypass iPhone security features.
This software would allow FBI investigators to gain access to the data stored on one of the San Bernardino’s shooter’s iPhones.
And on Feb. 17 Apple made headlines when its CEO, Tim Cook, gave a resounding and very public “no” in response.
“We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand,” he wrote in statement published that day, calling the court order “an unprecedented move” by the federal government.
I agree completely, and I believe Apple is 100 percent correct in its defiance of this overreaching court order.
Do not get me wrong. I understand completely that law enforcement agencies, especially the FBI, have a legitimate need for evidence.
And yes, I understand that said evidence is all the more pressing and important in a terrorist case such as this one.
But those who are making this argument are looking at the issue through too narrow a lens.
As Mr. Cook has said, this case will have ramifications far beyond unlocking (or not) one terrorist’s iPhone.
Indeed, recent news reports indicate the government has recently asked Apple to unlock another nine iPhones.
If Apple agrees to one, where and how do you draw the line?
Not only is the court ordering Apple to bypass the security functions of this one iPhone, but it is also ordering the company to create a special anti-encryption software that will have the capabilities to bypass the security features of any iPhone—a software that has been rightly criticized as “a skeleton key.”
This software—which, let’s not forget, could be stolen by hackers from Apple or the government’s servers—would allow the government to bypass a feature that causes an iPhone to erase its data if 10 incorrect passwords are entered.
In other words, this skeleton key would render the security features of the 700 million iPhones (a figure according to a USA Today article from October last year) Apple has sold worldwide utterly useless.
Those are some grave implications indeed if Apple decides to create the software, and I believe Apple should continue fighting this foolish court decision that would imperil the security of iOS users like us Brophy students.