National Security vs. Privacy

March 21, 2016
Danielle Gin  San Marino High  11th grade

Danielle Gin
San Marino High
11th grade

On December 2, 2015, two suspects, Syed RizwanFarook and Tashfeen Malik, opened fire on civilians at a San Bernardino Public Health facility, killing 14 and seriously injuring 22 before being killed in a shootout with police several hours later. President Obama declared the attacks an act of terrorism.

Investigators have since recovered an Apple iPhone issued to Syed Farook, but have not been able to unlock it to perform forensic analysis on the stored data.

On February 16, 2016, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym, ordered Apple to provide software that the FBI can load onto an iPhone to bypass a feature, which erases the phone’s data after too many unsuccessful attempts to unlock it. This ruling is the first of its kind where digital privacy is challenged by the needs for national security. It actually refers to an 18th century law from California, where the All Writs Act has been used to compel a party to help the government in its law enforcement efforts.

Apple has been reluctant to comply with the court order, arguing that it is not its role to act as a government agent and that doing so would breach trust with its customers. Apple has been implementing encryption on its mobile devices since 2014. Ironically, it was the Obama administration that has encouraged stronger encryption as a way to keep consumers safe on the Internet.

How does this issue affect you and me? On one hand, the U.S. Government has the duty to safeguard its citizens from terrorism. The iPhone may have information to prevent future attacks or to further their investigation on this particular attack.

Apple, on the other hand, realizes that this may set a dangerous precedent, which undermines all encryption and security for the public. In essence, they may be creating a “master key” that can unlock millions of devices. If that software falls into the wrong hands or is abused, the consequences to security and privacy will be significantly compromised.

The question for Apple may not be — “Can we build the software to unlock a locked iPhone?” but “Should we build the software to unlock a locked iPhone?”

For those who back Apple’s position believe that if we sacrifice our rights and freedoms to grant the government the power to invade into our private lives, albeit in the name of national security, we are opening a door that cannot be closed.


One Comment

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