On February 16, a bewildering event happened: the federal court of California ordered Apple to lend a hand to the FBI so they can hack into a smartphone. The said device, an iPhone 5c, belongs to one of the San Bernardino terrorists, and the FBI claims that bypassing the encryption would serve investigation purposes. However, Apple refused to cooperate, and filed a legal response detailing the reason behind their action. Big-name companies like Facebook and Google immediately stood behind Apple, and some of the VPN providers supported their case as well. So, the line is drawn on the virtual playground, but who’s going to back up first?
The First Steps Towards an Orwellian Future
“This is not a case about one isolated iPhone,” states the opening line of Apple’s legal response. “Rather, this case is about the Department of Justice and the FBI seeking through the courts a dangerous power that Congress and the American people have withheld: the ability to force companies like Apple to undermine the basic security and privacy interests of hundreds of millions of individuals around the globe.” Their reply goes on, but this short introduction summarizes their point effectively.
Allowing the government and the FBI to have an easy access, a golden key to such widespread communication device could end up defiling the privacy of people. And not just the U.S. citizens, as Apple phones are popular all around the world. Some could argue that hacking just one phone doesn’t hurt, and “the phone belongs to a terrorist, so it’s for the good cause”, but these statements miss the point. There is no such thing as “just this time” in the world of hacking. Presenting government forces with a mean to gain intel from private devices would quickly become a routine for them, and the federal court seems to support them in their effort. This could lead to blurred line in privacy, exploited by authority figures referring to “national interests”.
Apple vs FBI
Obviously, lots of companies share Apple’s beliefs, supporting them in their fight. Google and Facebook are the most notable ones, as they both know painfully well what it means when the FBI knocks on your door, demanding the private information of users. But you find several VPN providers in Apple’s camp as well. VPN services, like ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access are the front line fighters of individual privacy and information security, so it’s no wonder they joined the fight.
Known internet activist and founder of the first Pirate Party Rick Falkvinge even wrote a lengthy post foreseeing the dangers of the FBI’s attempts. Interestingly, not everyone is on the same page with Apple. Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest business magnate and philanthropist stated that “Privacy has its limits”. He explained on CNBC Monday that even though he sides with privacy in the everyday issues, national security should supersede privacy concerns in major cases.
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