Apple recently put out a letter on its website making things clear to everyone about what has been happening between the company and the FBI. The letter is a rather long one and goes in depth to explain how troubling it can be for a tech giant to take a stand against a bigger organisation, both to save the freedom of its customers and its future. As someone who uses an iPhone 6 Plus, I’m deeply impressed.
This is because worrying about where my data is being used is not something that I, as a customer, should be worried about. In Google’s case, this would be a completely different scenario as there are manufacturers and their software customisations that come in between. But with Apple, you have just Apple to complain to and hold responsible, so they better take their claims seriously.
Coming to the San Bernardino shootout that involved two terrorists killing 14 victims, it is indeed shocking and I do feel for the families of the victims. In fact, the first thought that came to my mind was about why isn’t Apple helping the FBI with all the details? Turns out, all it takes is one little key. But as Apple explains, that one little key opens up a backdoor that will help organisations like the FBI access millions of iPhones not just in America, but worldwide. If this happens, we will soon have our own government asking for access just like BlackBerry which was eventually brought into submission back in 2012. They handed over the encryption keys to the Indian government after a four-year standoff.
Apple was not too concerned about security either, until the iCloud hack came into the picture that exposed some rather revealing photos to everyone online thanks to weak authentications techniques. A year later, Apple users have two-factor authentication, and my iPhone with iOS 9 on board even prompts for a 6-digit Passcode instead of a 4-digit one.
Back to the San Bernardino case, it turns out that Apple is helping the FBI with its investigation. “When the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it. Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as we have in the San Bernardino case. We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal.” says the letter. It’s just that when the government asked for a backdoor access, Apple stood up for every Apple user and itself (and technically everyone else), rejecting the court order.
It was not too long ago that Tim Cook told CBS in an interview when quizzed about cyber attacks, “There have been people that suggest that we should have a back door,” said Tim Cook. “But the reality is if you put a back door in, that back door’s for everybody, for good guys and bad guys. I don’t believe that the trade-off here is privacy versus national security. I think that’s an overly simplistic view. We’re America. We should have both.” In short the Apple CEO indicated that things can go hand in hand, but never should a company open its door to hacking by reducing the strength of its encryption.
Clearly there is a way out, but the FBI will need to come up with a better way than to poke a tech giant with Writs Acts that will force not just Apple but every other company out there to give up their encryption keys if need be. Opening up millions of iPhones for the sake of one event somehow does not seem the wise thing to do both for users who depend on the same and the company as well.
Someone needs to stand up and I am proud that Apple is. Don’t agree with me? Well, Google’s Sundar Pichai has similar views on the same so it is something that everyone should take seriously, even if that means supporting Apple, a company that most Android fans love to hate.