Apple has been receiving a lot of press recently about its challenge to a court order that is attempting to force the tech giant to help the FBI get into a terrorist's iPhone. Judge Sheri Pym has ordered Apple to effectively create a backdoor into the phone of Syed Farook, who was involved in a shooting in San Bernardino, California with his wife on Dec. 2, 2015. This particular event resulted in the deaths of 14 people.
Apple's CEO Tim Cook has long been a supporter of encryption and the right of privacy, and explained his company's refusal in a letter to customers. This has sparked a huge controversy about the role encryption will play in the future of national security, with people arguing for both sides:
The FBI's case
The main point the FBI is trying to drive home is that this phone is all they have left of Farook and his plans. The shooter and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were gunned down by police following the terrorist attack. With so many lives lost, the FBI obviously had some questions about Farook and Malik's actions, including their involvement with terrorist cells, both in America and abroad. Just before the shooting, Malik went on Facebook and pledged her allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.
Whether the shooters had connections with ISIS or simply believed in the same principles is unknown, but access to the device could help provide the FBI with much-needed details about the case. Marcus Thomas. the former FBI Assistant Director of the Operational Technology Division, was quoted as being very opinionated about this subject in an article posted to ABC News's website.
"If you're going to build these devices and they're going to be air-tight and you can't get data out of them, then expect to get burdensome requests to help or maybe build solutions," Marcus said.
While it's true access to this phone could prove useful to FBI investigators, Cook is attempting to highlight the dangers of circumventing encryption. In order to comply with Judge Pym's order, Apple would have to create a new version of the iOS operating system specifically designed to bypass a security feature that the FBI could exploit. Many people see this as the end of the matter, but Cook envisions a terrifying future where people can no longer keep the data on their phones safe.
"We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand," Cook said in his letter. "Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data."
Basically, if Apple were to comply with this order, then the FBI would have the power to break into multiple other iPhones by using a computer to brute force multiple pass codes in a very short amount of time. What's more, Cook expresses concern this capability could be leaked, thereby giving hackers the ability to crack iPhones just like the FBI. He also doesn't want to set a precedent, as many other phone companies look to Apple for guidance into the future of the technology.
Cook wants to make it clear that this refusal is not meant to disrespect the memories of those who lost their lives in the San Bernardino shooting. Rather, he just wants to make sure society doesn't go down a slippery slope in the name of national security. While Cook notes that the FBI has good intentions and that this is not meant to be a treatise on the agency, he feels that complying with this order would have far-reaching consequences for the future of privacy.
"We are challenging the FBI's demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country," Cook stated. "We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications."