On February 16th 2016, Apple released a statement to their customers regarding news of an on-going case between the technology company and the U.S Government. According to this publication, Apple were approached by the government with the request to make a new version of the iphone operating system which may potentially allow government access to iphone users’ data. In particular, the government states their intention is to use this software to access one iphone only – the suspect of the San Bernardino terrorist events in December last year. Both Apple and the U.S Government stress the importance of protecting public security. However, this differs in terms of action required.
Apple may be one of the most valuable brands in the world, and have built up a strong following of loyal customers. Through this success, they have grown to become one of the most popular mobile phone providers with their own operating system which syncs with all products on offer. According to their recent press release, Apple’s concerns with the U.S government’s request are the potential security implications from creating a new system, which may open access to all iphone users data. They believe the government may extend this breach of privacy and demand Apple build surveillance software to intercept messages, access data, track users’ location or even access the phone’s microphone or camera without the user’s knowledge. They aim to protect their customers from this, and therefore oppose the government’s request.
On the flipside of this case, the government aims to gain access to one iphone, with the aim of discovering intelligence which may help them understand more about the communication exchanges leading up to the San Bernardino events. This move appears to be an attempt to protect Americans by learning more about the motives of the San Bernardino suspects, and the government claims they may only use the system for this purpose. They appear to have healthy intentions with this request, as the contents of the iphone may be a legitimate matter of national security. However, Apple believes this may compromise the security of its users of which they want to maintain protection. They also want to maintain customer relationships with the company. A recent press release from congressman Ted Lieu from Los Angeles County agrees this action from the government may affect the privacy of Americans and affect American businesses, however the government have good intentions with their request. He further suggests “security measures need be taken without affecting privacy rights in the United States.” It appears there may be highly divided opinions amongst those in businesses and the public sector concerning this case, as there are productive aspects to be derived from each side.
The debate between both sides deals with both security and freedom; between the civil rights of Apple users to maintain their privacy, and the legitimate needs of national security. Apple claims they want to continue to help the FBI as much as possible by providing information from icloud accounts, however they propose the government withdraw its demands for new software. Furthermore, Apple remain pro-active in helping the FBI and discussing national security, privacy as well as personal freedoms.
This particular case also brings to light the line between coercion from the government and businesses. It questions how far the government may go when attempting to find new intelligence regarding terrorist events. The government appears to have the same priorities as Apple in protecting American citizens, however this manifests itself in different ways. They may need to work together and compromise to achieve their individual aims.
How might Apple and the U.S Government come together to achieve their individual aims?