Opening the Door – Apple Inc. Versus the FBI

Cellphone & LockA national debate is escalating over the balance between security and privacy, playing out as much in the court of public opinion as the court of law.

Who hasn’t received a phone call from their banker or credit card provider questioning a transaction? We are leery of giving our private information over the phone. Perhaps the caller is not who they claim to be. When I received this type of phone call earlier this week, it took a couple of hours over a half a day, interrupting my flow of work but, I was pleased with the outcome as the charge was valid. Replacing your cards due to fraudulent activity is no picnic. So, when I read about Apple Inc. saying “No” to the FBI to protect the security of it’s iPhone platform, I applauded that the company would take a stand for privacy.

Basic Issues:
1- National security, privacy, and individual rights – Although the phone may hold clues to finding other terrorists, it also may not. In this case, the security of law-abiding citizens worldwide could be compromised for years to come. Mr. Cook, Apple Inc. CEO, characterized the government’s move as “a dangerous precedent that threatens everyone’s civil liberties.” Over time, Apple has adopted more stringent security and encrypted more of its user data. Mr. Cook believes that privacy is a basic human right that Apple needs to support.

2- Can a company be forced to help investigators open a terrorist’s phone? – The Justice Department won a court order last week compelling Apple to help the FBI open the phone by disabling a passcode security feature.

“This is an extremely important debate about privacy, civil liberties, and so forth,” Ted Olson, Apple’s attorney, said on Sunday, February, 21 during ABC’s “This Week.”

Building a “back door” into the phone would weaken the security of all iPhones making them more vulnerable to hackers and government surveillance. Over 100M iPhone devices were in use in the U.S. as of Nov. 19, 2015, reported by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. The requested access won’t destroy the integrity of the newest iPhone models, but will affect the 50M older devices. That’s a lot of devices and people to put at risk.

“The government is asking Apple to hack our own users,” Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in an open letter to customers last week. Mr. Olson said that the government will open a Pandora’s box of legal issues that will not be limited to a single terrorism case. “There are hundreds of magistrates, there are hundreds of other courts. And there is no limit to what the government could require Apple to do if it succeeds this way.” Frankly, I agree. Perhaps it is time to make the tough choices to protect our information and decrease opportunities for fraud. Kudos to Mr. Cook and Apple Inc. for standing up for our rights. Like Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, Mr. Cook is willing to take principled and sometimes unpopular stands on important issues. “The time is always right to do what is right,” said Mr. Cook, quoting Rev. King from a 2013 speech at the United Nations.

As mobile phones increasingly serve as personal identification credit-card alternatives and banks are experimenting with using phones to replace ATM cards to withdraw cash, the security and privacy of our devices become of paramount importance or we will spend our days addressing queries on the validity of transactions hitting our accounts.

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Rebecca Carfi

The Financial Sage

Join Rebecca Carfi, The Financial Sage as she shares relevant financial information and wisdom garnered from her deep and broad career in Financial Services and Management.

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