Why Apple won’t break iPhone security for the U.S. in 35 seconds

Cyber Politics

You’ve probably heard that Apple has been ordered to un-encrypt the iPhone that belonged to one of the killers in last year’s San Bernardino shooting.

Apple has said that it would resist the order in an open letter to customers.

“Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk,” the letter reads. “That is why encryption has become so important to all of us.”

But what exactly does that mean?

Our Security Advisor Sean Sullivan spelled it out to Ben Grubb.

Here’s the transcript:

The reason Apple doesn’t want to open this Pandora’s box is because if they do it for a structured law-enforcement request in the United States, Russia, China, Pakistan will say ah huh! It’s technologically possible, do it for us too. And they won’t use a legal structured process. They’ll just make demands. And the demands will be like ‘facilitate this or get out of our country; stop selling iPhones here’. And in China that’s a huge market. The Federal government and judges working with telephone operators have facilitated this sort of functionality in the past. But the operating systems have evolved and changed since then. So there is actually precedent of this type of thing having happened.

We know this is true because China has already made similar demands.

Breaking encryption bad for those seeking privacy in repressive regimes, and it’s bad for the rule of law, says the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The Constitution does not permit the government to force companies to hack into their customers’ devices,” the ACLU said in a statement. “Apple is free to offer a phone that stores information securely, and it must remain so if consumers are to retain any control over their private data.”

It’s also bad for U.S. tech businesses, who are essentially being “conscripted to write spyware” for their own products, as the Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez tweeted.

Making these kinds of demands on businesses is pretty typical for those in government actively responsible for preventing the next terror attack. But many intelligence experts recognize that these demands are shortsighted and have made that point once they’ve returned to the private sector.

That’s why despite the tremendous pressures to prevent unnecessary bloodshed, Apple is taking a principled stand that protect all of our privacy.

[Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr.]


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