Wednesday, February 24, 2016

To Break The Code or to Not Break The Code; The Battle Between Apple and the FBI

ON THE FACE OF IT, THIS SEEMS LIKE A STRAIGHT-FORWARD decision.  If you are afraid of terrorism in the United States, then Apple MUST help the FBI.  If you are worried about one of the things that make America unique - its privacy rights - then sorry FBI, find another way.  My gut reaction was to make Apple recover the contents the of the San Bernardino terrorist's cell phone.  I know longer feel that way.

The backstory is this.   Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, in an act of home grown terrorism,murdered 14 fellow co-workers in a San Bernardino facility in 2015; the terrorists were killed.  In the course of their investigation, the FBI recovered Syed's cellphone but lacked the encryption code to read his messages.  Apple does not, and this is key, have a current ability to break that code, nor turn off the built-in protection which will wipe the phone clean after 10 failed attempts to hack the code; thereby affording absolute protection of their customers privacy.  Apple refused to help and the FBI got a federal court order mandating them to help.

But, here's the rub.  Apple doesn't have the ability (or desire) easily undo their encryption protection.  Now Apple claims that if they do this, then that may open up Pandora's box to hackers breaking into every Apple phone.  I don't believe that for a moment.  Why, because Apple has their source code locked down tight enough not to be worried it will be hacked; therefore they could do the same for any code they wrote to break into Syad's phone.  This is not a good reason to deny the FBI what they want, and this was the position I initially took.

What changed my mind was the other argument Apple is making ... that this is a slipper slope to government intrusion into everybody's private communications.  This, I believe.  The way the government to do this is to "Compel" a company like Apple to create original work in order to pry into another citizen's privacy.   The path down the primrose-road starts with the government having the ability to force someone to "create" something they do not want to; in this .  And to me, that is one step too far; even in this kind of situation with terrorism.

On the other hand, I have no problem with the government buying up a bunch of iPhone's and trying to reverse engineer them to their heart's content.  But, the idea of our government being able coerce actions from an innocent party against their will seams to violate every principle America was founded on.