The FBI and the Justice Department are doing their God’s honest best to compel Apple to do a carte blanche breach of the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone 5, and Apple is refusing to comply with the warrant.
This is a good thing on Apple’s part.
But here’s a curious assertion about this critical case where battling terrorism clashes with upholding personal security and privacy. Former national security official Richard Clarke claimed on NPR this morning that the FBI could have cracked the terrorist’s iPhone by simply calling up the National Security Agency at Fort Meade and have them break the encryption; that the FBI fucked up with their initial attempts because the data could have been in the iCloud, which Apple can access. Clarke said the FBI, led by its crusading director James Comey, knows that the NSA could provide the solution for this case (i.e. crack Apple’s encryption), but that’s not what the FBI want.
What the FBI wants is to establish the legal precedence that these massive and extra-powerful tech companies will bend the knee to the U.S. government, to set the stage that tech companies are not above the reach of law enforcement… whether national security is at stake or not!
There’s not enough being discussed about this actual rational to the Apple iPhone Warrant case, particularly, in the wake of the Snowden revelations concerning the NSA illegally spying on citizens in the US and around the globe.
The problem with the FBI’s desire is that if Apple bows to its pressure, then China and Russia and North Korea and Pakistan and Iran will all then have the ammunition to force Apple to comply to create this specific code-breaking iOS for iPhones of suspect people in their countries too. If not those governments (and others) might ban the sale of the iPhone within their borders. One of the reasons why Research in Motion‘s Blackberry is a footnote in the rise of smartphones is that it had touted a super-strong encryption service for governments and other paranoid outfits that Apple and Android phones couldn’t provide. This gave RIM a monopoly in the government mobile phone provider service contracts. Unfortunately, RIM rested on that laurel and didn’t react quickly enough to consumers’s ardent desire to have the most friendly user-interface possible. So once Apple proved to the US government its iOS encryption rivaled (or surpassed) Blackberry’s and then it was accepted, the penultimate chapter to RIM/Blackberry was immediately written.
If Apple doesn’t have this competitive advantage, not only will governments give it the kiss of death when it comes to government contracts, but also consumers. In addition, if the FBI gets Apple to roll over, it will have the legal precedent get to Google to make the same concessions with its Android OS. The wake of this revelation it’s no surprise that Facebook, Google, and WhatsApp plan to increase encryption for their users.
See many people in the US love that part of our ethos as a nation is to have the right to say, “fuck you” to The Man with impunity. This is why most people believe Apple should stick to its guns… plus it’s too soon since the Snowden Leak for Americans (and Germans) to feel comfortable giving up more privacy to the US Government.