It started when recent acts of terrorism in San Bernardino, California brought about a highly publicized showdown between Apple and the FBI. After weeks of publicity and appearances in California federal court by the FBI v Apple the showdown ended in a whimper yesterday when the FBI announced its data retrieval on the terrorist’s iPhone.
The great privacy versus law enforcement debate ended with a bite into Apple. Apple CEO Tim Cook had argued for weeks that he was acting for the interest of customer privacy. It brought thoughtful exchange on CNN GPS with Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and NSA, told Fareed Zakaria his position, “I think Apple is right in terms of opposing universal backdoors to make it easier for our or any government to get into encrypted communications … but I am not convinced that what the FBI is asking Apple to do in San Bernardino is that,” Hayden said. “And I think the burden of proof is on Apple to show there is an inevitable slippery slope.”
Hayden made a point to Zakaria that “governments who actually wish us no good” could “exploit and take advantage” of the backdoor. He restated to Zakaria his position from an earlier CBS interview last Monday:
“And my judgment in this particular case is that universal backdoors – although it may facilitate American law enforcement for very good purposes – on balance, on balance, actually are an overall negative for American security, not just for American privacy.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook welcomes Congress to pass legislation on the issue of encryption rather than an ad hoc process. Congressman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Chairman Homeland Security Committee, and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) have introduced legislation that would establish a 16-member commission with the task of examining ways to balance the concerns of law enforcement and securing privacy through the use of technology.
What happens if Pandora’s Box is opened? Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, sees trying to break the encryption protecting one phone, as “extremely damaging implications” for the rights of many millions of people world-wide.
What does yesterday’s announcement hold for future privacy battles? Victoria Schwartz, an associate law professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, stated, “It looks like the government cried wolf,” Next time, a court may take a more careful look at their request for a similar order.”
While a Justice spokesman stated the government will remain on its course, Apple released a statement on Monday:
“Apple believes deeply that people in the United States and around the world deserve data protection, security and privacy. Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk,” the company said.