What would Steve Jobs do? That is as a cliched opening as you will ever see. It’s an unfair question for Tim Cook, the current CEO of Apple. Would Steve Jobs have stood up to the FBI’s request to open, not just one iPhone, but dozens, even thousands? This is not just about the San Bernardino shooters, this is about a more fundamental issue between the FBI’s need for information to protect us and the public’s need for the assurance that our conversations are not being read by people with no business reading them.
We know what Tim Cook would do. Mr. Cook is going to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court if needed, by all appearences. This has been branded as an marketing stunt by some, and in some ways it is. What would happen to Apple’s iPhone business if we knew the feds were always capable of listening in? What would happen if terrorists got hold of the de-cryption scheme? Apple could go back to making really nice laptops as it’s sole source of income.
However, it is not just Apple that is against the FBI’s requests, Apple competitors also came out against it, Google, Twitter, Facebook, and even Microsoft. Microsoft’s stance would be in stark contrast to founder Bill Gates, who might not have all the information when agreeing one instance does not a policy make. All of these companies rely on encryption to keep your data safe secure and out of prying eyes. It’s a large part of their business model. In fact, Microsoft and Amazon are in a battle to sell cloud resources of storage and computing power to companies and individuals. Would you like your Amazon shopping and search records made public? How many corporate sales, marketing and other information could leak due to these ‘backdoors’?
With Mr. Cook’s appearance that he will take his case to the Supreme Court if needed, this now becomes an interesting political issue. If the Senate Republicans succeed in blocking any Obama nominees until a new President is sworn in, which of the current crop of candidates would you trust in appointing a Justice sympathetic to data privacy? Hillary Clinton? She has no base to stand on given her special ‘email issues’. Donald Trump? He might try to buy Apple and then just make them do it. Rubio? I am not confident that Rubio has any stance on anything other than he wants to be President. Sanders? Sanders might be the best choice, but I don’t have a warm fuzzy. My point being, the next Justice could in fact be that fifth vote either way in an Apple vs The Federal Government case.
In the end, we as voters need to take a really good look at ourselves. Do we really want to give up the protection of encryption on our phones so that we MIGHT get something juicy off of a terrorists phone who ended up killing themselves anyway? Would having encryption opened up on this iPhone have prevented even one life from ending?
Terrorism is the use of violence to incite fear into the victims so the victim complies with the wishes of the terrorist. To use a quote from FDR,
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself”. In other words, if we want to stop living in fear of terrorism, we need to stop fearing terrorism and giving away things we hold dearer than the off chance of being involved in a terrorist incidence.
Forget what Steve Jobs would do, what would you do?