The Latest Apple v. FBI Fight Shows That We Need A Middle Ground For Situations Like This

Yesterday a story hit news that the FBI via US Attorney General William Barr is demanding the help of Apple to unlock the phone of a Saudi citizen who went on a deadly shooting last month at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla. that killed three and wounded eight.

“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” Mr. Barr said. He called on technology companies to find a solution and complained that Apple had provided no “substantive assistance,” a charge that the company strongly denied on Monday night, saying it had been working with the F.B.I. since the day of the shooting.

Here’s what Apple said in response:

In a statement Monday night, Apple said the substantive aid it had provided law enforcement agencies included giving investigators access to the gunman’s iCloud account and transaction data for multiple accounts.

The company’s statement did not say whether Apple engineers would help the government get into the phones themselves. It said that “Americans do not have to choose between weakening encryption and solving investigations” because there are now so many ways for the government to obtain data from Apple’s devices — many of which Apple routinely helps the government execute.

So it seems like we are headed towards another FBI v. Apple fight. But let’s be clear. What this is all about is to ensure that the FBI or any other law enforcement agency or government can access any smart phone for any reason any time they want. While I understand that the FBI among others wants to protect people from any threat that exists, I don’t believe that this gives them the right to say that the rights of citizens get over-ridden because of this. I say that because if you look at Attorney General Barr’s statement, he wants technology companies to “find a solution” to allow him and those underneath him to get whatever it is they want at will. And it’s safe to say that they want backdoors into iOS, Android, or whatever OS they see fit that gets them past whatever security or encryption that the device in question has. Giving any government a backdoor into any OS is a bad idea as governments tend to have pretty poor track records of keeping stuff like that out of the wrong hands. Which means when the backdoor leaks out, we’re all screwed. This is on top of the potential privacy issues that could be at play.

Thus here’s my ask of everyone that is involved. Tech companies and governments need to find some sort of middle ground for situations like this. One where the needs of both sides are represented and nobody, especially you and I, loses. Because having each of them at their respective extreme ends of the spectrum isn’t working for either party. And as a result this fight will simply keep going on and on with no real resolution. Or worse yet, a government will simply take some draconian action to get what they want and inadvertently affect their citizens in a negative way. And neither of those are desirable outcomes.


2 Responses to “The Latest Apple v. FBI Fight Shows That We Need A Middle Ground For Situations Like This”

  1. […] I posted a story about the latest Apple v. FBI fight in which I called for some sort of middle ground that would […]

  2. […] up on the latest Apple v. FBI fight where the FBI wants Apple to unlock an iPhone 5 and 7 that belongs to a suspect in a terror […]

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