Once again, an iPhone looks to play a part in the evolution of our society. This time it’s not Apple releasing a new model, this issue is centered around one singular piece of technology, the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter. If you own an iphone, actually forget just iPhones, if you own any type of phone, computer, mp3 player, tablet, or any other type of technology imaginable that may contain your personal information, this privacy issue should be in the forefront of your mind.
If you’re not aware of the conflict, in February of 2016 the FBI attempted to order Apple to develop a new software to unlock this password protected phone to access personal information. Apple refused, citing violations of the 1st Amendment’s protections against forced speech and the 5th Amendment’s protection against government incursions on property and liberty. Apple states, “the order would set a legal precedent that would expand the powers of the government and we simply don’t know where that would lead us.”
This conflict leads to key questions about how we wish to be governed: Would this be an invasion of privacy? How much do we value privacy? Could we trust the government to handle software and confidential information like this properly or would they abuse the power?
I am writing on this topic because in recent weeks, this conflict has been resolved somewhat anticlimactically. The FBI hired a contractor, and through use of a confidential mechanism (that the FBI does not own), the contractor was able to unlock this singular iPhone. This leaves the door wide open for this conversation surrounding privacy and the involvement of government in our personal lives to continue. This topic is pertinent for every U.S. citizen, especially for members of the younger generation, like me. As technology continues to advance, I only see the impact of this controversy and eventual decision continue to grow.
As a supporter of Apple’s stance and the preservation of privacy, I have conflicted sentiments about this method that the FBI used to bypass apple. Because on the one hand, there was no ruling in favor of the government, meaning that no software was created that could unlock any IOS operating system. But at the same time, no legal precedent has been set, thus postponing and elongating this issue that could play a crucial role in determining the direction and future of our government and society. Apple’s stance on the issue remains strong saying, “If we lose control of our data, we put both our privacy and our safety at risk.” A full press release from apple surrounding this issue can be found here. Do we need to sacrifice our individual privacy to receive collective protection through our government? If our democracy is truly “of the people, by the people”, should the government have this much power into our personal lives?
A video of Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, giving his insight on the issue can be found here:
Despite the resolution of this singular instance of a debated invasion of privacy by the government, this issue remains prevalent. GPC has taught me to challenge the functionality and purpose of these institutions: What is the role of government? How do we want to be governed? How do we want to live? Yes, Syed Farook did violate laws and in turn sacrificed his freedom, but should his total privacy be sacrificed? According to J.J. Britz, “Privacy can be defined as an individual condition of life characterized by exclusion from publicity” (read more on the topic of technology as a threat to privacy here). Violation of the law should not result in a total loss of personal privacy rights, government is meant to protect those. To me, anything else would be unjust. As James Madison once said, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
As someone who has been raised on technology, and feels immediate withdrawal effects, I’m aware of all the personal information (texts, emails, notes-to-selfs, passwords, etc.) that are stored on my iPhone and that I would not feel comfortable or allow anyone else to have access to. From GPC, I’ve learned that it’s my and our responsibility as citizens to participate in government, in some form. This is an issue that I’m passionate about and would fight for, because I believe personal privacy should be an inalienable right, and I think the government is infringing with these demands and lasting intentions against technology privacy.
This problem is imminent and I think that it is crucial that there is a definitive ruling on this subject matter, as soon as possible, before more conflict arise and boundaries continue to be crossed. It’s a scary issue because the government is supposed to be our protectors, and in this scenario, although intentions may be good, I see the government posing the danger. To be protected, must we live in fear of our government?
“Apple CEO: Unlocking San Bernardino IPhone Would Be ‘bad for America'”Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 2016. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. <http://www.reuters.com/article/apple-encryption-timcook-idUSKCN0VX2S5 >.
Britz, J.J. “TECHNOLOGY AS A THREAT TO PRIVACY: Ethical Challenges.”TECHNOLOGY AS A THREAT TO PRIVACY: Ethical Challenges. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. <http://web.simmons.edu/~chen/nit/NIT’96/96-025-Britz.html>.
“Customer Letter – FAQ – Apple.” Apple. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. <http://www.apple.com/customer-letter/answers/>.
“The FBI Has Successfully Unlocked The IPhone Without Apple’s Help.” NPR. NPR. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. <http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/03/28/472192080/the-fbi-has-successfully-unlocked-the-iphone-without-apples-help>.
Volz, Dustin. “FBI Decides Provisionally Not to Share IPhone Unlock: Sources.”Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 2016. Web. 28 Apr. 2016. <http://www.reuters.com/article/us-apple-encryption-flaw-idUSKCN0XN28B>.