That phone in your pocket is such a big part of your daily life that it’s become almost an appendage. Perhaps more accurately, it has become your second brain. My iPhone multitasks far better than I ever will. It holds my (almost) entire life schedule, two email accounts, credit card information, innumerable contacts and multiple social media accounts. All of life’s necessities, right there at your fingertips. I can honestly say that I have never paid a bill via post, simply because I find it so much more convenient to pay with my phone. Initially, my phone’s ease of access to my finances troubled me. I was unsettled by the thought of my financial information being projected out into cyberspace. But I have overcome this inhibition and learned to trust my passcodes and touch ID.
After all, our phones are programmed to be secure, like miniature bank vaults we carry around in our pockets. When we want to move on from one phone to the next, we simply transfer our data, wipe the memory clean and start fresh. That is the privilege of sophisticated technology.
Yet one of America’s most influential technological companies, Apple, is being requested (or rather demanded) to create a new technology which would enable governmental officials to access this erased information. The reason for this unprecedented breach of privacy? Terrorism.
To be more specific, the ISIS sympathizers behind the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking more information about the married couple who committed the acts of terrorism last December. While both Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik perished in the shooting, access to the data on Farook’s phone could provide information on ISIS activities and help prevent another attack by the extremist group.
This seems a simple enough scenario. The FBI wants to make headway in the fight against ISIS and is asking the creators of the suspect’s iPhone to cooperate with investigations. And up to this point, Apple has done just that. So why is Apple refusing to decode the encoded information? As CEO Tim Cook explained in a letter to Apple customers, the allowance of such a “back door” technology could cause a slippery slope effect, in which the government could have the freedom to demand increasingly more control over the privacy of independent companies and American citizens alike.
Cook argues a valid point. According to a poll by Gallup, six out of 10 citizens fear that the United States government has too much power. After all, was not our nation created with the rights of the individual citizen in mind? Everything from the right to choose your religion to the freedom to speak your mind was permanently protected in our Bill of Rights. If the federal government gains control, will the individual citizen respectively lose some measure of control and freedom?
Interestingly enough, a majority of citizens are actually opposed to Apple’s stance on this issue. According to a survey by Pew, 51 percent of responders believed that the industrious company should create a “back door” for the iPhone. As it seems, most Americans prefer the well-being of the sum over the liberty of the individual.
This is a noble sentiment, but it is an outlook that seems to ignore the future implications of allowing this infringement upon privacy. Once this door is made accessible, it will not ever be fully closed. That decoding process will be an almost irresistible asset to those parties who would use it to its worst. If seized by the wrong hands, the decoding tool could even become a new source of terrorism. The very threat which we are trying to root out by decoding this phone could quite possibly use our own defenses against us.
Our cell phone-crazed nation would launch into a panic. We would demand security, and Apple would likely be obligated to design a completely new encoding system to render the compromised one obsolete. Additionally, the standard would have been set that a private company can and must share private customer information and act beyond its will if the federal government decides that this is in everyone’s best interest.
This controversy is a double-sided coin. We as a nation (not to mention as a united globe) are deep in the throes of a fight against a major terror in our world. If we allow our fear to cloud our judgment, we are much more likely to fall prey to our enemy’s schemes. While we may be tempted to view this situation from the perspective of what would do the most good in the present, our actions will set the precedent for the future of our nation. Before we throw the first stone at Apple, we need to decide just how much privacy we are willing to sacrifice.