By Nolan Sheow
The United States government has demanded that Apple develop a new “backdoor” into the encrypted system installed into iPhones, a demand that potentially puts every iPhone user’s privacy in jeopardy.
The iPhone 5c belonging to the terrorist responsible for the San Bernardino attacks, Syed Farook, is currently in possession of the federal government. Investigators have a warrant to search the phone, but do not have the technology to open it, as Farook’s iPhone is equipped with software that will delete all of the phone’s data after 10 failed passcodes.
FBI agents have claimed that Apple must open the phone for them, because in their eyes, national security is more important than privacy. Apple has denied, saying that the security system of Apple iPhones can not be cracked even by their own engineers, who designed the system to keep their customers’ personal information even out of Apple’s reach.
The FBI demanded Apple to develop a backdoor to the iPhone system, saying that this loophole will be used for this case only. Apple again denied and has every right to do so.
The technology that the FBI wants Apple to create will allow investigators to remove security features and allow computers to break down the passcode on all iPhones. This essentially forces Apple engineers to betray their own customers by weakening the security features on the phone that they have worked tirelessly for decades to create.
The power that would be handed to the government with the creation of such tools would potentially give the government complete access to all information on all Apple devices. This includes health records, financial data, photos, music, texts, emails, and notes. The government will also have access to the camera and microphone, allowing them to watch and listen in whenever they want.
Of course, the government says this is a “one time” thing, but all it takes is another terrorist attack for the government to extend this rule to “whenever we deem necessary.”
The newly weakened iPhone could be easily hacked by a criminal; your financial information could be available to anyone. This loophole that the FBI is asking Apple to create can be the chink in the armor that opportunistic hackers have been waiting for. These hackers could have access to all of your information. There could potentially be another person on the other side of the Macbook on your desk, watching and listening, and you would have no idea.
Critics seem to oversimplify the weight of the issue. Many say that the government should have access to all iPhones to prevent hackers, criminals, and terrorists from attacking its citizens. This is hypocritical, as the whole point of encryption is to protect innocent civilians from these dangerous people, who may gain access to information about their private lives.
The FBI mandating Apple to install these loopholes into all of their phones casts a dark shadow upon the future of technology and security. Giving the government the ability to conduct the unprecedented review of our private communications undermines the very freedom that we expect our government to protect. We pride ourselves on living in a “free” country, but giving the government the power to spy on us and watch over our private lives is as far from free as you can get.
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