If you haven’t heard about the FBI’s feud with Apple in the past couple of weeks, you’ve probably been living under a rock. However, you may not have heard the whole story.
The story goes like this. On December 2nd last year, 14 people were killed and 22 seriously injured during a terrorist style mass shooting in a government building in the California city of San Bernardino. The perpetrators are known but will remain unnamed here for obvious reasons. Both were killed in a shoot-off against police.
The FBI took control of the investigation under its jurisdiction. Upon recent investigation, the FBI announced their inability to unlock the mobile phone of one of the attackers, an Apple iPhone 5C. This was due to the advanced security features of the device. The FBI reportedly asked Apple to create a new version of their iOS operating system that could be installed remotely, run in the phone’s random access memory (RAM), and disable certain security features. Apple denied the request as it was against their security policy.
Of course, we all can see the need for this ability, something federal organizations can do to keep us all safe; there may be important information in there. This is the safety element of the argument. Of course, warrants allow for searches but what the FBI is doing is much more than asking to see inside of one phone; they want a way inside them all. We’ve all seen how well this goes over with the NSA.
Apple’s argument is pretty clear: it’s all about privacy. All they care about is protecting the strength of the iOS software keys and the encryption that guards them. Giving the FBI a pass and creating a fake version of iOS that lends the government brute-force passcodes will weaken those software keys. Additionally, the creation of ways around the system will result in an increased demand of the FBI’s to do such, causing unsafe transactions that could lead to nefarious use by others or by the agency itself. The FBI will not get exactly what it wants if the tech companies have anything to say about it.
It is easy to notice a fine line in this argument. Most likely, this feud will end in the middle ground with Apple helping out the FBI without this gaining too much steam, and ending rather quickly. There is a way around the government agency’s claims in a way that will not harm the public. The PR stunt for both sides is really nothing more than that.