Apple as transparent as its storefront in cyber security

The Editorial Board

In the age of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Wikileaks, the debate on privacy versus security has never been more relevant.

In recent years, stories regarding the government spying on U.S. citizens have been met with extensive outcry and calls for transparency as George Orwell simultaneously rolls over in his grave.

In the wake of the San Bernardino shootings that rocked the nation last December, Apple, who manufactured the phone in the possession of one of the shooters, has cooperated behind the scenes with the FBI in order to help them piece together a clearer picture of the events.

But now, the story has changed. According to a statement released by Apple CEO Tim Cook, the FBI has asked Apple to create a “backdoor” that would allow them to circumvent several key security features of iPhone software and gain access to its encrypted data. Apple has promptly refused this request, and publicly at that, noting the software does not currently exist, and though the government may very well hold good intentions in regard to its use, there is no way to know what might come about after the fact.

“The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices,” Cook writes in his address, which was posted on the official Apple website Tuesday.

It does indeed set a dangerous precedent, and beyond the valid concerns of the federal government overreaching its bounds with this “master key,” the fear of rogue third parties acquiring it is just as troubling.

Consider that just this month, hackers released the information of literally thousands of employees working for and with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. How can the same government agency that has proven itself vulnerable to attacks on its own employees be expected to guard the doorway to the personal data of tens of millions of American citizens? Apple does, after all, hold over 40 percent of the U.S. smartphone market share.

The shortsightedness of our government’s domestic intelligence agency is troubling, but not terribly surprising.

It is in light of this that we must commend Apple for doing the right thing and remaining committed to transparency with its customers. It reiterates that, even as it refuses the government’s request to create this potentially dangerous and wildly unpredictable software, it is steadfast in helping it in any capacity that would not breach the trust of its customers, their expectation of privacy or the law itself.

So, to the men and women who proudly walk in the doors of the FBI every day to defend us from threats on our own soil, we would like you to know that we do appreciate what you do, but we politely ask you keep your nose out of our business.

As law-abiding citizens, we support your endeavors in thwarting evil, but not at the expense of our privacy.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

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