I was disappointed to see a number of people I respect level attacks on Apple for releasing a letter stating they intend to defend the privacy of technology users everywhere. Before explaining how Apple is making the correct move, I want to clear up a few things.
Apple has been accused of not helping the FBI. This accusation is false. Tim Cook points this out in his letter to customers:
When the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it. Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as we have in the San Bernardino case. We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal.
Suggesting Apple can create a backdoor that will only allow the FBI into the single iPhone 5c owned by the San Bernardino terrorist is ignorant of reality. If Apple were to create a backdoor it would, without a doubt, be used to break into all iPhones.
Once Apple grants the FBI access to the technology to break into an iPhone, Apple will no longer have control over this exceedingly dangerous tool. Neither the FBI, nor Apple could ever ensure that this tool wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands. There’s no such thing as a backdoor only the “good guys” can use. There are secure devices and there are insecure devices. Backdoors make devices insecure.
A digital backdoor is very similar to the back door of your house. Anyone who has the knowledge and ability to break in can do so. The back door in your house doesn’t magically distinguish between good and bad. It lets in anyone, good or bad, who can figure out a way to open it.
Apple isn’t standing up to the FBI because they believe it’s wrong to break into the iPhone of a terrorist. They are standing up because if Apple granted the FBI’s request, they would create a dangerous precedent that weakens the privacy rights and security of all Americans.
If Apple builds a backdoor they will make everyone less safe. Terrorists and criminals will (and do) use other products that are secure. They will buy them in other countries or they will build ones themselves. Apple isn’t shielding terrorists. They are implementing higher security standards to protect their customers from identity theft, and loss of personal information.
I’ve been told I have a right to privacy, but Apple seems to be the only one that believes it should exist in practice.