Apple Vs. FBI : Why I think Apple is right

Note This article was written during the height of the FBI case against Apple to force it to create a version of it's OS that doesn't put a limit on the number of attempts to unlock. I didn't publish it for various reasons but thought I would do so now. The facts that are contained in the article were true at a specific point during the case and have not been updated since then.

I was going to write this one up as an article but I felt that a bullet point listing of facts and logic might help make things a bit clearer.

The facts

  • Two terrorists attacked innocent people.
  • A third person might have been involved.
  • Some of that information might be available on the iPhone the terrorists had in their possession.
  • Getting data from those phones could help prevent a future attack and help track down the possible third person.
  • Apple currently does not have the capacity to remove the protections that the phone has.
  • The FBI is asking Apple to build new Software to bypass the protections that the iPhone in their possession has.
  • If Apple complies with the order, what they build will work for any iPhone that has the security vulnerabilities that that one has.

The 'Apple should comply' arguments

Argument 1: I don't care about terrorist's privacy

Good, and neither does Apple. Apple is not withholding any information/data of the terrorists'. Apple's arguments so far have also not been about protecting the owners of that particular phone.

Its good to keep the following facts in mind,

  • Apple has already given the FBI every piece of data that it has about the Phone.
  • Apple has loaned out engineers to help with getting as much data of off the phone as possible.
  • Due to a blunder by either the FBI and/or the county, a possible method of getting more data has been taken off the table.

What the FBI is asking Apple to do is something completely different from this. It is asking it to build software that currently does not exist, basically a master key, that will enable the unlocking of millions of older iPhone's, not just in the US but around the world.

Argument 2: Apple can create this master key and then destroy it

Unlike in the physical world, once something is created, you can't really guarantee that it will be destroyed. Apple is uniquely positioned as the only one with both the private key (think of it as a special, unique key, that lets every iPhone around the world know who they are) and having the set of engineers who can make this piece of software.

No one right now, can put those two things together. But once Apple does, then the Software they have created can be stolen. While safer than non-tech companies, it isn't as if tech companies haven't been hacked before 1|2.

The question is, do you want a tool to exist that could allow anyone to access your phone and all the data in it? Don't forget, most phones have a list of all the places you have been, the pictures, information about your kids, banking and card information, etc...

Do you want a key that lets people access this information to even exist?

Argument 3: What can possibly happen isn't enough not to do something because terrorist aren't possibilities, they are real

True. It is scary that we live in a world where people decide to take the lives of innocent people. As someone who came from Ethiopia, I really do appreciate the safety provided by law enforcement in the US.

However, government and law enforcement have to constantly do a balancing act between their ability to investigate and people's right.

The moment the husband and wife decided to go down the path of terrorism, they gave up any rights they had as people living in the US. However, it isn't for the two of them that the whole debate is happening. Its for the millions of other people, both in the US and outside, who will become vulnerable once Apple builds this tool.

Do you want to live in a world where terrorists' actions result in you losing the ability to secure you and your family?