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The Oklahoma Legal Group Blog

Apple to Create Un-Hackable iPhone?

Adam Banner - Tuesday, March 15, 2016

There is no question that the growth of technology has had a profound impact on criminal justice and civil liberties. The boundaries of personal privacy rights are continually pushed back in the name of public safety and even national security. Edward Snowden and his leaks about NSA surveillance, Supreme Court cases over warrantless smartphone searches . . . these tech-related privacy concerns have come to a head in the epic showdown between Apple and the FBI over whether the company should hack the smartphones of the San Bernadino shooters.

Obviously, the FBI wants in and wants in badly. The agency wants to find those responsible for aiding Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook in planning the terror attack that left 14 people dead and 21 injured at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernadino, California. The FBI was unable to hack the suspect's phone, and is attempting to order Apple to find a way into the phone through a "back door" troubleshooting feature.

Apple refused to comply, citing security and privacy issues. It has rejected a court order demanding the company to assist the FBI in gaining access to the phone and says it will fight the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The concern, they company says, is not simply a matter of gaining access to one phone. It is creating a security loophole that could potentially lead to privacy invasion of any and every iPhone user.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement:

“We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.”

In fact, the company is so concerned about the security loophole and its implications if the company is ordered to hack its own products, that it is trying to completely remove itself from the equation. As Apple battles the United States Justice Department over gaining access to the phone of one of the San Bernadino killers, the company is working on creating an iPhone that cannot be hacked even by the company that created it.

It is a tough dilemma. On the one hand, what could such technology do in the hands of criminals, terrorists, and those bent on destruction? Unbreachable communication could certainly be devastating to national security.

On the other hand, we see time and again how our privacy rights are continually eroded. We know that while technology may be hacked for law enforcement purposes, it can also be hacked for illegal purposes, including credit card fraud, identity theft, and more.

Balancing personal privacy and national security can be tricky--something FBI director James Comey acknowledges:

"We have awesome new technology that creates a serious tension between two values we all treasure: privacy and safety. That tension . . .  should be resolved by the American people deciding how we want to govern ourselves in a world we have never seen before. We shouldn’t drift to a place—or be pushed to a place by the loudest voices—because finding the right place, the right balance, will matter to every American for a very long time."

Comey says that in failure to follow the lead in the suspect's smartphone is a failure of justice to the victim's of the San Bernadino shooting.

It's a delicate issue. Is the answer to protecting personal privacy creating unhackable technology? Is the answer to national security forcing back door entry into a smartphone? Or is the answer found in some unseen middle ground?

 






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