Home Apple Explained FBI vs. Apple — The Privacy Fight

FBI vs. Apple — The Privacy Fight

by Dewi Safitri

Law enforcement agencies around the world make requests for data from Apple and other big tech companies all the time. So all the time, there are processes in place just to handle them. They are routine! But every once in a while, specific cases still show up in the papers. They’re the most sensational, horrible, heartbreaking, flag-waving cases, and the papers lap them up. Few if any questions are asked and the people who then read the stories get all riled up. Which is I think the entire point of getting those stories into those papers, to begin with. The biggest and most public fight over encryption in the US so far was the San Bernardino case. This channel didn’t exist back then, but I covered the story extensively online. Including sitting in on innumerable calls, and reading endless reams of legal statements and filings.

And the TLDR is that the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and FBI not only want Apple to hand over whatever data they might have on the suspects. FBI wants Apple to create a version of iOS too, because that would allow authorities to circumvent the hardware encryption on any iPhone, at any time! Which showed, even back then either a staggering ignorance about how encryption works or a staggering willingness to manipulate the public in an attempt to stop encryption from working at all. Apple believes the request itself was extra-legal, in conflict with existing laws, and a violation of the first and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution. The FBI tried to justify the request by using the all writs act, and an arcane 200-year-old piece of legislation. And I’m just guessing here probably never had digital encryption in mind when it was codified.

ALSO READ!!! Back To Basic: How To Update Your iPhone

But Apple said NO! more specifically Apple CEO Tim Cook said, some would argue that building a backdoor for just one iPhone is a simple clean-cut solution, but it ignores both the basics of digital security and the significance of what the government is demanding in this case. In today’s digital world, the key to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it. Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge. The government suggests this tool could only be used once on one phone, but that’s simply not true. Once created the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices in the physical world it would be the equivalent of a master key.

Capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks, from restaurants and banks to stores in homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable. In the San Bernardino case, the FBI and Justice Department eventually gave up and reportedly paid a third-party vendor to hack the iPhone for them. It removed the immediate pressure on Apple, but it also removed the danger of the FBI action being ruled undone or illegal by the courts. And that precedent is being set! Flash forward to this week, and now the papers are being fed a similar story. This time the FBI needs to get into the phones in the recent attacks in Pensacola. From the Washington Post, reporting on a letter sent to Apple by the FBI’s general counsel. 

ALSO READ!!! Crash Detection Feature: How To Use It on iPhone and Apple Watch

The FBI out of an abundance of caution has secured court authorization, to search the contents of the phones to exhaust all leads in this high-priority national security investigation. NBC reporting on the same letter. Officials have sought help from other federal agencies, as well as from experts in foreign countries and familiar contacts in the third-party vendor community. And ultimately, investigators are actively engaging in efforts to guess the relevant passcodes but so far have been unsuccessful. In response to the letter, Apple said “We have the greatest respect for law enforcement and We’ve always worked cooperatively to help in their investigations. When the FBI requested information from us relating to this case a month ago, We gave them all of the data in our possession, and We will continue to support them with the data we have available.” Of course, Apple has no way to break into modern iPhones! 

They’re not like nation-states and gray market vendors. They don’t stockpile zero-day exploits to use on their customers. Anytime they find a zero-day, they push out patches for them as fast as possible. Because any of them could be used or discovered or disclosed by other people at any time. And then there are the worst kinds of headlines and repercussions of all. And the FBI knows this, they know it. That’s where the papers come in. Because again, they don’t want to get into one phone. They want the ability to get into any phone. The courts of public opinion can be a much better vehicle for that than the courts of law. Because the papers can be used to make it look like Apple is standing up for the rights of criminals, rather than standing up for all of our rights.

ALSO READ!!! iPhone 14: How To Use Emergency SOS Via Satellite

“What would you want them to do if it was your family?” is the question that inevitably gets asked again and again. Every time! as though the answer would ever be anything other than everything. Even things that would be criminal, in their own right. So what’s critical is to step back and look at what’s being asked for here. No more secrets! The ability to get into not just a single criminal’s phone, but everybody’s phone. Yours and mine. And the ability for not just the FBI to get into it, but everybody. Foreign agencies and criminals alike. Substitute the FBI for say, Russian or Chinese intelligence or one of the myriads of countries where dissidents, journalists, and everyday citizens have no freedoms or protections under the law. 

Any border crossing or even traffic stop, any place in the world, where the contents of every private photo, message, medical and financial record are suddenly at risk. Tim Cook said in a recent interview that China had never asked Apple to compromise iOS security but the US had. Luckily in the US, a system still exists to push back against those types of requests. But what happens when and if China does? especially that they are emboldened by America and the FBI. Based on recent history, it’ll be as easy for Apple to push back worse. What happens when the back door falls into the hands of organized crime and terrorists and Loan hackers and criminals? 

Government agencies have proven woefully incapable of containing dangerous technologies. Information aboard a vacuum, and from the NSA spy programs to the worms created to wage cyber warfare in other countries, we’re all still dealing with the devastating consequences of the government repeatedly failing, to keep exactly those kinds of secrets, secret. A master key into every one of the billion-plus iOS devices out in the world, who’d ever pick one up again? It’s the nature of law enforcement to overreach, for one hour every fingerprint on file. All of our DNA is on record, from conception, and one day to want trackers and monitors implanted into all of our bodies. And they have a clear and understandable point of view for doing so. Their goal isn’t to protect our privacy, is to protect our safety. 

But we have to be able and willing to push back against that overreach. It’s the duty of all of us to say clearly and with unyielding certainty. NO! Because the precedents we set now will echo throughout the next few decades. Our phones enhance our most timely memories they store our most private data, and they sense everything about us and our surroundings. Not all countries and laws are the same, of course. But many have the concept of a right to remain silent, a right against self-incrimination even a spousal privilege. I’ve argued before and I’ll keep arguing the same should be extended to our phones. Because they are becoming closer to us, even than our spouses. They’re becoming part of us, they’ve already become external cybernetics. The way we treat them in part will determine the way we treat the eventual internal cybernetics and neural connections that follow. 

If the thought of a backdoor into your phone doesn’t creep you out, the idea of a backdoor into your mind and thoughts early should. If it sounds like a bunch of crazy talks, again! I point you back to the coverage. Asking Apple or any tech company for assistance is routine, the only time it shows up in the papers is when they want to make a spectacle. And because the papers want a spectacle as well, they seldom if ever stop to consider why they’re being handed one. But it is absolutely to keep stirring up sentiment against the right to privacy, to chip away at it from oblique angles in the courts of public opinion and then the courts of law. And it’s much better and easier to be hyperbolic about it now than it will be if we ever lose it .and every agency an attacker is just swimming in our data. Now I want to know what you think. Hit up the comments and let me know what you think! 

Source: FBI vs. Apple — The Privacy Fight

Related Posts

Leave a Comment