THE CASE of Apple and the iPhone unlocking has seen a large number of tech firms weighing in with their views, including Microsoft, Google and, um, Donald Trump.
Apple stands by its decision not to unlock the phone of a dead terrorist despite the FBI's demands. The company said that it is doing this for reasons of privacy, as explained in a letter to customers penned by CEO Tim Cook.
"Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data. Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk. That is why encryption has become so important to all of us," he wrote.
"For many years, we have used encryption to protect our customers' personal data because we believe it's the only way to keep their information safe. We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business."
Other technology companies are listening, and Microsoft and Google have chimed in with their views. Google CEO Sundar Pichai posted five tweets in which he covered the search firm's view on the situation.
2/5 We know that law enforcement and intelligence agencies face significant challenges in protecting the public against crime and terrorism— sundarpichai (@sundarpichai) February 17, 2016
"Important post by @tim_cook. Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users' privacy," he said kicking things off. "Could be a troubling precedent."
Also standing in Cook's corner and rubbing his shoulders is Microsoft. Here we have Satya Nadella, the ladykiller boss of the firm, retweeting a tweet from Brad Smith, Microsoft president and chief legal officer, that offered a link to the Redmond position via a statement from the Reform Government Surveillance (RGS) group.
"RGS companies believe it is extremely important to deter terrorists and criminals and to help law enforcement by processing legal orders for information in order to keep us all safe," said the group in a statement.
"But technology companies should not be required to build in backdoors to the technologies that keep their users' information secure. RGS companies remain committed to providing law enforcement with the help it needs while protecting the security of their customers and their customers' information."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has also backed Apple. This does not surprise us, but it is rare that technology firms and privacy outfits find accord. The EFF will file an amicus brief in support of Apple, which is a good thing.
"We are supporting Apple here because the government is doing more than simply asking for Apple's assistance. For the first time, the government is requesting Apple to write brand new code that eliminates key features of iPhone security that protect us all. Essentially, the government is asking Apple to create a master key so that it can open a single phone," the EFF said in a statement.
"And once that master key is created, we're certain that our government will ask for it again and again, for other phones, and turn this power against any software or device that has the audacity to offer strong security."
It is not all high-fives, though. Cook's stance has its opponents, including thinly thatched moneyed politico Donald Trump, who is something of a human opinion trumpet. Trump blared his views on television and went crackers, according to a report on Politico.
"Who do [Apple] think they are? They have to open it up. I agree 100 percent with the courts. I think security, overall, we have to open it up and we have to use our heads. We have to use common sense," he raged.
There has been frothing and finger pointing too. FBI chief James Comey is in the unfortunate position of backing Trump, but then he would do wouldn't he? Comey told The Guardian that Apple is getting in the way of world peace and safety.
"In Silicon Valley, saying you think Apple should help the FBI get into terrorists' phones is grounds to get kicked out of your Uber," he said. "And, I'll be honest, it's an alarming thing to find myself agreeing with Donald Trump on anything."
But he does agree, of course. "Is it really so absurd to ask Apple to break into the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone 5C? In this exceptional case of large-scale domestic terrorism, this is a phone built before Apple sealed off its ‘backdoor', so how much of a precedent can it set?" he added.
"And beyond the specifics of today, if our lives are lived through our phones now how can law enforcement do its job if it can't get into them?"
A divisive subject on a sensitive topic. We expect to see a lot more words before we see a solution. µ
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