18th February 2016 writings on the wall
Probably Tim Cook’s and Apple’s move against court orders and FBI pressures will go on for quite some time. I have no idea who will win (if anyone will win at all), but I believe that Cook chose the right battle to fight. This is no ‘isolated case’, this is not about that one iPhone 5C. And I too, among others, think that FBI is taking advantage of the particular situation (an awful crime committed by a mass shooter, and the need to find out the most information possible) to create a precedent. Once they force Apple to build a modified iOS version that can break into that iPhone 5C, there’s no way to guarantee us that they won’t come after some other smartphone maker. If there’s something that the NSA-Snowden revelations should have taught us, it’s that those in charge are indeed trying to keep the Western World at peace, but they won’t respect fundamental rights such as privacy or security, in this peace-keeping quest.
The point is: even if we want to believe FBI is in good faith (and in a way they are, because if in that iPhone there are information about the shooter’s plan or activities, they should be retrieved), they cannot be trusted. In the last few decades, political organizations or even underground branches of government or authorities have misused their duties and faculties, to the detriment of the citizens. In Italy this is acknowledged: for many years, there was an enclave that pressured our legitimate representatives and abused their powers to protect their own power and position, with an awful lot of means. Imagine if they can also pry on our phones.
Smartphones should be more secure, and as many have already said, they should be inaccessible for everyone but their owner. There’s no magical security unicorn, no magic security feature that can be capitalized on by the good guys only. And even if we say that the FBI are the good guy, what about other governments in the world? More so: if our phones have backdoors and other weak security systems in place, terrorists around the world will use some kind of security means and we’re back to square one.
Tim Cook chose the right path, although the most dangerous, politically speaking. The EEF, WhatsApp, and to a certain extent Google and Microsoft stand with Apple: I’m waiting for all the other internet companies to stand up as well.
(And for those of you who think that this is a commercial stunt: yes, speak loudly about security, privacy and protection of one’s own clients is surely good business, but it can alienate a good chunk of user. Probably it will. Let’s see.)