Apple should not provide backdoor to FBI

Reagan Stuart

The investigation of the shooting that occurred in San Bernardino, California, last December has become a battleground over American citizens’ right to privacy, specifically regarding electronic communications. In a disturbing turn of events, a publicly held corporation, namely Apple, is defending the constitution against a government agency sworn to uphold it.

It has recently come to light that the FBI recovered an Apple iPhone 5C used by one of the shooters. The contents of the phone would be extremely useful to investigators interested in uncovering the shooters’ connections to the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations. Unfortunately, such communications were encrypted by a complex algorithm that has left them inaccessible to investigators. In the wake of this discovery, the FBI ordered Apple to decrypt the data on the phone in order to give access to investigators. In an act of defiance, Apple has refused the order, citing concerns about the precedent it would set regarding customer privacy.

While over half the American population thinks that Apple should comply with the Justice Department’s demands, unlocking the phone would set a dangerous precedent on multiple fronts. First, it would be a huge blow to our civil liberties, potentially granting our government access to some of our most precious information.

Call it Orwellian paranoia, but there is serious reason to not grant the government any more access to our communications than they already have. The PATRIOT Act already gave the government nearly full access any citizen’s communication metadata, allowing them to know who you’ve called and when. Giving them access to text messages is the next step in the creep of governmental invasion into our private lives. Even if you claim that government intrusion does not bother you because “I have not done anything wrong,” then perhaps the story about NSA agents spying on their own love interests will change your mind. We should be careful to remember that government employees are simply fellow citizens. Granting them unfettered access to our private communications can have unfortunate consequences.

Even if we you have full moral trust in the United States government, any sort of backdoor put in place for government use would almost certainly be exploited by hacker groups wanting to obtain sensitive information such as credit card and Social Security numbers. It would be so clearly a disaster for personal security, the FBI should be ashamed for even requesting it.

While Apple is a corporation concerned primarily with maximizing profits, the public should be grateful they have chosen to defy the government in this case. In the midst of The War on Terror, citizens’ rights are easily stripped in the name of safety. We would be wise to do all we can to protect them.

Stuart is a Plan II and business honors sophomore from Lubbock. Follow him on Twitter @realreaganstu.