Tim Cook has written an open letter outlining his company’s decision to balk at an FBI request to unlock the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook. He’s the San Bernadino terrorist. Last year, he and his wife killed 14 people. His iPhone is in the possession of local law enforcement. It’s an older model which means that it doesn’t have all the new fancy security features. However, the iPhone 5c does contain the feature that if you try and fail to guess the password 10 times, the device is wiped of data. The FBI wants Apple to disable that feature. One estimate is that if that happens, then it will take law enforcement just a half hour to guess the 4 digit PIN and gain access to whatever is on Farook’s phone.
Apple has had these legal fights before. And not just Apple. And not just in the U.S.
I tend to agree with the notion that if you say ‘yes’ just this one time it’s the equivalent of “just the tip” and before you know it you’re pregnant or have a nasty std. If Apple gives the government a master key or a backdoor into its devices, it won’t just be for this case. Or the next terrorist case. It will be used to catch serial killers. And then pedophiles. Some will say terrific. That’s great. If you have nothing to hide, then you won’t worry. But we all know that everything is context. A web search. A voice mail message. A photograph. Health and financial records. They can all be used to build a false reality. Or just used by hackers and fraud artists.
It also reminds me of the famous Apple Big Brother ad. Despite my misgivings, I believe this is a losing battle and…eventually…governments everywhere will know everything about everyone.