I’m not going over all the background of the iphone controversy, except to say that Apple refuses to cooperate in the investigation of one of the mass murderers in the December 2, 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, California. 14 people were killed and 22 gravely injured. The radicalized Muslims, husband and wife Syed Rizwan Farook and Tahsfeen Malik, also planned to set a bomb off. Normally, investigators can get a search warrant to look at suspects’ phone records. This has been constitutional and normal practice, useful in a variety of ways, for criminal investigators.
Now, with ever more sophisticated hardware and software, criminals can hide their phone correspondence, and in the case of Apple iphones, they can permanently hide information from investigators that historically could not be hidden. It is constitutional in our country to investigate crimes in this way, yet Apple is holding our legal system–backed by the constitution–hostage.
And yet TV commentator after commentator is acting as if this is all something new and a questionable invasion of privacy. They say that the government is asking Apple to be a “lock pick” into someone’s private data, but since Apple made the lock in the first place (that is, a way for criminals to conceal information), this argument is silly and obnoxious. They say if Apple is forced to do this, other countries will be able to use it against innocent people, like political dissidents and journalists. Really? (Really??) There are ways around this, I’m pretty sure, but high-profit international companies wouldn’t want to go there (if you have a company that is strictly US based, can Iran make you do something?). Maybe I’m giving the likes of Apple too much “benefit of the doubt” by even thinking this claim is a real possibility. I’d like to hear from legal experts in this specific field, since I’m only hearing conjecture.
In any case, Apple has taken the power and not our investigators, as they’re trying to claim. Various people and organizations (Google, Twitter), now even Amazon (boycott Amazon?), are backing Apple. Why? It makes no sense. How paranoid does a person have to be that they’re worried that the FBI or whoever wants to take the time to listen to their phone? And, I for one don’t want my choices made for me by hugely powerful companies like Google and Facebook; based on their current censorship and other actions, they are worse than our own government investigators.♦
This brought to my mind the issue that blacks have brought up in claiming racism in the justice system. I agree with them on this one: why are all the white folks who take drugs free (think of all those Hollywood types, even), while so many blacks are behind bars due to drug sentences? So, are the whites simply worried that they’ll now be get caught buying cocaine? It’s kind-of a rhetorical question, but I don’t know where the paranoia is coming from. And I don’t get how Americans think it’s OK to protect the mass murderers in this case. Criminals, it so often seems, have more rights than their victims. And now that is more the truth than ever. The criminals must laugh themselves to sleep at night.
♦ These companies know how dumb Americans are, I’m guessing, since internet users constantly give them access to private things like email contacts, people in private circles (a Google+ thing), allow them to make posts FOR them at Twitter, Facebook, etc., and allow these companies to follow new people without their permission, etc. If you don’t think so, just try posting a comment at any number of online magazines/newspapers, etc., and read the conditions. Yet, these same Americans complain loudly about investigators trying to look at one phone of a confirmed mass murderer . . .
7 thoughts on “Apple’s Taken the Power (for Criminals)”
This is an interesting case and may turn out to be one that goes to the highest court. My concern in this from my understanding is that Apple is being asked to create something that does not exist currently. That is where I am stuck. If the government can demand that Apple build something they do not want to build even for the best of reasons then they can demand that I create something I do not want to create for the worst of reasons. I know this has been done before when factories were converted to support war efforts. However I wonder if this court order might have unintended consequences one day in the future.
Thank you for reading and commenting! I don’t see this as an issue, since the government has required that – for example – auto manufacturers make all kinds of changes to their products for the public good, like air bags and anti-pollution mechanics. Our government has been able to force quite a bit on companies and citizens for the public good. This case to me is the same, and no different, and that Apple went out of their way to make their phones inaccessible to law enforcement in the first place; they knew by making it that they’d hinder investigators and to me that’s simply immoral.
PS: I find it also really weird that when it comes to national security, a single company can hold our own country hostage. Much of the media, for some reason, is only giving one side of the issue and people are buying it. It’s very strange. To me, Apple wants its cake and to eat it too. They want to make a ton of profits, as usual, with no consequences. Again, they made the program in the first place, knowing that their product could hinder investigations into terrorism and national security. I would never make a product that would help criminals and hinder victims from getting justice, and when it comes to Apple, they’re simply refusing to make a program that would allow for the investigation of ONLY persons whom the courts feel justified in issuing a warrant. There’s no reason to think the government would be given the program . . . I’m not getting how people can think that.
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That is an interesting comparison with the auto company. They could make a car that did not meet the Government standards and if I wanted to buy that car I could. The government would then block me when I tried to get a license to drive that car on public roads. That phone when it makes calls over licensed bandwidth that Verizon or Sprint leased from the government would then apply to this car comparison. Apple however has made something for private use (the data stored on the device not the calling function from the cell towers) that is not being used in a public domain. It seems to me that Apple is in a no win situation. People want to know they can’t be hacked and have their personal information stolen so Apple has secured the device. In order to keep the device secure Apple will now have the government dragging them through the courts for what could be hundreds if not thousands of new requests for an unlock daily. No easy answers for me on this topic.
I’m still not sure what the issue is here. If my son of husband was killed by someone that I knew was part of a group that would very likely kill again, I would think it right and necessary for the killer’s phone records to be viewed not only for basic justice but to prevent other murders. That’s all there is to it. Warrants are only given for suspected or known criminals, and I don’t know how correct the figure is, but I saw somewhere that there were around 800 other phones police would like to look into – total, not daily. If international law could require Apple to open more of its phones, then honestly, who is Apple to decide the law? What you’re saying is that Apple can supersede any country’s law in order to sell products to people who, for whatever reason, don’t want their messages looked at. Would it affect good folks, like political dissidents in autocratic countries? I doubt it. We can’t afford an iphone and I’m sure a lot of poorer dissidents can’t either, even if there was service everywhere. God tells us that eventually, all will be known. Whispers will be shouted. As a Christian, I try to live my life the way God says it will be eventually, since that’s the way He intended it all along. Our fallen world makes our reality different, but we’re called to be little Christs, to be like God and carry out His will. The only people that have something to hide from legal authorities are ones who’ve done something wrong. So I’m not getting the issue. If people are that concerned about our own govt eavesdropping on them, as a more general issue, then that’s a bit of a different topic. And as far as the public good, of course it’s a public good to catch murderers and terrorists with any reasonable means–having a court signed warrant a phone seems reasonable to me. And regarding the authority of govt forcing people to do things for the public good, there are other less complicated examples than what you gave. The supreme court upheld fines for not having health insurance, and there are tons of cases related to private property vs planned land use. Our govt makes us do all kinds of things daily, and Apple should be no exception just because of something they created (for profit, even).
In the end, regardless of what we might think will happen with what they are asking, it needs to happen. If the people who owned the phone were alive and not terrorists, then I can get not unlocking the phone… but they are dead, and they are terrorists, so they should unlock it. Now I get where people are coming from, a program to unlock the phone could potentially unlock all phones, but I’m sure there’s a way they could do it where it would unlock just that phone. Given the tech we have at our finger tips, it should be possible for them to just unlock that one phone, as a one time thing. These people they are protecting are evil. That makes apple evil for going with them.
I agree it is a bad case for Apple to try and make their stand on.
I don’t think any criminal has rights to have their phone kept safe, just in case you misunderstood me. If you commit a crime, you forfeit all rights, period.
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