Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Apple (and Silicon Valley) v. FBI: here's the national security case

The New York Times has an op-ed Tuesday by William J. Bratton and John J. Miller, “Why Apple should unlock an iPhone”.  There is a sub-sidebar, “Companies need to be accountable for more than just sales.”  Online, the title is more nebulous, “Seeking iPhone data, through thefront door”. 
Logically, those who favor the “national security” view point out that Apple (nor any other similar company like Motorola, Google, or Microsoft) need put a decrypting tool on the phone.  It would sound plausible to put the decryption tools in some sort of special “Cheyenne Mountain” law enforcement facility with military or FBI supervision (although hackers have previously compromised even these).  Maybe, to the horror of fans of Snowden, Greenwald and Poitras (counting me), that securing agency would be the NSA itself, near Baltimore, or a new facility in Utah.

But I do take seriously the idea that, in the future, a particular phone could have data, not just about a planned rifle attack, but maybe about something “particularly dangerous” like a dirty bomb or EMP device (which, contrary to popular belief, need not necessarily be nuclear). So, as libertarian-leaning Rand Paul once said, “get a warrant.” And in this case, the FBI certainly did. 
The other comment, that companies are responsible for more than just sales and profits (for shareholders), catches my eye.  Individuals can be responsible for the consequences of the easy availability of the tools they use, even when no money is involved but just pride, when others can so easily misuse them. 

Update: February 24

In an exclusive update by David Muir of ABC of Apple's Tim Cook, the Apple CEO said that creating even a secluded back door (or "front door") would be creating the "software equivalent of cancer." He also indicated that the FBI did not handle the phone properly right after recovering it.

Update: February 25

Ellen Nakashima and Todd Frankel report that Apple is making the next generation of iPhones even more unhackable, even after the fact by law enforcement.

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