Apple vs FBI Explained

Jimmy Oliver, Editor-in-chief

Do you think the government should have access to our electronic devices to maintain national security?

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After a nearly five-month bout between tech company, Apple, and the FBI, the controversial court case has finally reached a conclusion. Following the shooting in San Bernardino, California, the FBI was keen on accessing data and information stored on the gunmen’s cell phone. Apple, however, did not give up such information willingly, stretching the case for months after the attack.

When the gunfire stopped on Sheddon Drive in San Bernardino, a total of sixteen people were killed, including the two shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, who were killed in a shootout with police. As investigations began and evidence was gathered, the FBI arrived at an impasse: Farook’s iPhone 5c. The security features that Apple had incorporated into their operating system proved to be too strong for even the world’s most prestigious investigative organization. The system is quite simple, really. Without the passcode, you can’t enter the phone. To add to the hardship, after ten failed attempts at entering the passcode, the iPhone permanently erases all data, thus eliminating a significant piece of evidence from this particular case. With over 10,000 possible 4-digit combinations, it was smart for the FBI to not take the risk.

Instead, the FBI tried to convince Apple CEO, Tim Cook, to write a piece of software as a sort of “skeleton key,” providing access to all iPhone’s. Cook, however, was completely against the idea of having a master key, as it would create a threat to the security of the entire digital world. While the government says they would want to use such software for this case alone, Apple does not fully trust that the coding would stay in the right hands. “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… No reasonable person would find that acceptable,” as said in a customer letter from the CEO.

It is clear that Apple does not have a problem with the American government. However, it’s the unintended consequences that could come to fruition if such a code is created. If in the wrong hands, outside of a trusted government organization, the personal information of millions of people would be at risk.

Presently, the court case has ended, as the FBI has successfully gained access to the iPhone without the help from Apple. However, the government is refusing to release how they did it. This mystery has created another obstacle for Apple as it shows a weakness of their security system.

This complex debate is a fight between two important things, privacy and security. While the FBI wanted a “backdoor” entrance to the iPhone, in order to protect our national security, Apple felt it was their responsibility to their millions of customers worldwide to defend their private information. Tim Cook ends his customer letter saying, “we fear that this demand[from the FBI] would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”