There is a lot more than what meets the eye in Tim Cook’s spirited fight against the FBI and US DOJ’s demands to create a back-door for iPhones. Don’t hold your breath for this riveting saga to come to any real conclusion for at least a few more weeks. While the FBI has made a specific request: that Apple help hack the iPhone, owned by the San Bernardino Department of Health and used by one of the terrorists responsible for killing fourteen people on December 2, 2015, leading tech CEO’s like Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai have rallied behind Tim Cook and his fears around user privacy for millions of iPhone users if this technology fell into the wrong hands. Bill Gates who was earlier reported to be supporting FBI in this case, came out strongly clarifying his views that a more “nuanced” approach needs to be taken here and that Congress and the courts must help strike an appropriate balance between security and privacy.
Gates was quoted in an interview on Bloomberg saying, “I do believe there are sets of safeguards where the government shouldn’t have to be completely blind, but striking that balance — clearly the government has taken information historically and used it in ways we didn’t expect, going all the way back to say the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover.”
Privacy activists have vociferously criticized FBI’s demands and have highlighted this as yet another attempt by the Agency to vilify Apple and other telecommunications companies. They have argued that this situation stemmed originally from the US Government’s overreach and the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the same people now complaining that they can no longer act with impunity. And in a politically charged environment where almost all of the Presidential candidates are either making their positions known or refusing to take sides, this will continue to become an important issue during Presidential debates and speeches well into November this year.
Also, it’s interesting to note some media commentary that has implied that Apple, which has recently seen flat sales and plummeting share price, is fighting this pitched battle to show it’s clients that it takes “user privacy” seriously and wants to use this to attract more new buyers than Android, but there is No Way they architected their products without a “backdoor”. Software products, with its obvious flaws are not known to “hack proof” their phones, even to themselves.
On Monday morning, Tim Cook sent a letter to their 115,000 employees explaining his stance and refusing to create the back-door to unlock the phone is relevant to bigger issues and it’s just not a case of a single iPhone linked to a gruesome attack.
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Cover Photo: Apple Store in Chongqing, China, opened ahead of Chinese New Year 2015 (Courtesy: IDB).