by Tori Cappo and Jared Glassman
On Feb. 16, the U.S. District Court ordered Apple to provide “reasonable technical assistance” to investigators seeking to unlock the data on the iPhone 5c of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the two shooters in the San Bernardino, CA, shooting on Dec. 2, 2015, which led to the deaths of 14 people. The assistance includes disabling the phone’s auto-erase function, which activates after 10 consecutive unsuccessful passcode attempts. However, Apple is opposed to this idea because this is “akin to a master key capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks.” This debate has brought up the larger issue of whether our government should be permitted to require companies to turn over the private information of users.
In a statement on apple.com, Apple CEO Tim Cook accused the government of “taking an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers.” As part of a $500 billion organization, Cook and his team have a responsibility to use their product for the greater good.
The debate between Apple and the FBI goes back to Colonial days and the philosophies of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. This issue is much larger than a technology company crying for privacy. It’s an issue of nationalism versus sectionalism: of whether we care more for our country’s safety or our own.
As U.S. citizens, it is our civic duty to do anything in our power to protect the country in which we live. Whether that means being a good samaritan and helping someone in trouble, or putting in the extra effort to make a “key” that has the possibility of saving hundreds of lives, we must make sacrifices to help keep this country safe.
Furthermore, Farook;s iPhone may contain vital information. There is a chance that his iPhone will reveal that he knew other extremists and had contact with them. While this could be an infringement of our personal rights, we don’t know what is on that phone and it could be a major breakthrough in our hope to eliminate extremism.
For something that could be a turning point in our fight to end terrorism, it is vital that the man who runs one of the most powerful companies in the world does everything in his power to help save it.
While it may appear that the information on Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone is crucial to the FBI, forcing Apple to unlock this information sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of the country.
Some argue that this is an issue of national security and that breaking into the phone might reduce the threat that terrorism poses to the United States. However, they fail to recognize that creating a key to the phone comes with the possibility of much corruption.
Why should the American public trust that employees of Apple or the FBI won’t abuse their power and let the code slip? Any employee would then be able to hack phones not only of the public but also of important government office-holders, undermining the democratic morals on which this country was founded.
Furthermore on the issue of privacy, Apple has claimed that the FBI’s demand for the creation of a key violates the company’s First Amendment rights. Apple explained that just as the government should not force reporters to turn over their notes, one should not force the company’s creation of a code.
A compromise between the FBI and Apple must be met so that the solution does not cross any ethical lines. Preventing the creation of a “back door” key to the phone is the only solution that would set a positive precedent for the safety of the American public.
While the struggle between the FBI and Apple is an issue of national security, the loss of the rights upon which our country was founded is a greater fear than terrorism is. Privacy must be guaranteed and respected for all Americans, and corruption within the government and large companies more frequently causes damage to the American public than isolated acts of terrorism by outsiders.