Encrypted Messages, How Far Is Too Far?

Have you recently come across a news article referencing a court battle between Apple and the FBI? It’s been in the headlines for quite a few months now, and it’s become quite the controversy.

The controversy gained notoriety following the incidents in San Bernardino, California. One of the shooters in that incident had an iPhone, which the FBI wanted to unlock for further evidence. Apple’s refusal to assist the FBI has resulted in a long battle between the two where opposing sides have presented valid arguments. It has since turned into a heated controversy between privacy and safety.

Raymond Payne Cyber Security

The FBI had a court order compelling Apple to assist with breaking into the shooter’s phone ; however, Apple refused to comply and opted to fight the order. Apple has long been advancing their security systems, and promotes guarantee user privacy. In an article for theguardian.com, Stephen Colbert, of the Late Show, referenced Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook’s opinion on developing a software to unlock iPhone’s for the FBI,  “He said you can use it to turn on my iPhone and spy on me if you wanted to once you had access.” Apple had released a letter in early February addressing the controversy stating, “We oppose this order which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.” Apple goes on to further explain the need for encryption. Their argument is that people often have sensitive information on their smartphones, whether that be personal information, financial data, or what have you; without encryption you’re leaving highly sensitive information subject to hackers or criminals who wish to access that information. Apple goes on the reiterate that compromising such information puts customers’ safety at risk.

On the contrary, the FBI feels as though not have access to encrypted data puts the public at risk. The US attorney for the Central District of California, Eileen M. Decker, made a statement in regards to their case against Apple, which was featured on cnet.com, “We sought an order compelling Apple to help unlock the phone to fulfill a solemn commitment to the victims of the San Bernardino shooting — that we will not rest until we have fully pursued every investigative lead related to the vicious attack,”. A Justice Department spokesman, Marc Raimondi, made a statement also featured on cnet.com, “it remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety,” James Comey, director of the FBI, made a comment to the House committee when questioned on his actions, “It’s not Apple’s job to watch out for public safety, that’s our job.” Essentially, the FBI feels as though if the data being requested has to do with national safety, individual privacy should be compromised.

The case between Apple and the FBI concluded when the FBI successfully hacked the iPhone in question. As the case concluded before a ruling, the controversy remains very much at large. Where is the line between personal privacy and national security? How far is too far when it comes to encryption?