Apple should not help the FBI unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino terrorist

Addie Welch, Staff Writer

In an America with an increasingly blurred line between online privacy and government surveillance, Apple is right to block the FBI’s efforts to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook. While protecting national security is important, forcing Apple to unlock the phone is unlawful and the implications of the decision would put all iPhone users in danger.

All recent iPhones have a system that will delete the phone’s data after 10 incorrect password attempts. The FBI wants to bypass this mechanism by making Apple write new code to get into the phone without deleting any data.

If created, this software runs the risk of being taken advantage of by clever criminals. The mechanism would create a backdoor that simply isn’t safe in the hands of the government. This means that every iPhone would be at risk of being hacked by criminals with full access to photos, text messages, contacts, cameras, location services, phone calls, and even saved health data, passwords and credit card information.

“It’d be really nice to know how to prevent the shootings, but at the same time, how would it look on the Apple company? They have millions of customers, and it just wouldn’t be really fair to them,” freshman Suad Adam said.

Apple can’t even access most personal data on iPhones. It is imperative that companies protect the personal data of Americans so it isn’t used by criminals, foreign spies, or other corporations without our knowledge or permission.

In addition, court orders have already said that writing code is a form of free speech, and forcing Apple to write new software is a violation of the First Amendment.

“I think Apple is doing a good thing because it’s our privacy. And I own an iPhone,” junior Abel Martinez said. Martinez agreed that the FBI should have some form of access to internet data to investigate crimes, such as terrorism, to protect the safety of Americans. And they do.

Apple and other tech companies have complied with the FBI on numerous occasions. Apple gives out available data on iPhones when presented with search warrants and subpoenas. The Justice Department could have easily accessed more information on Farook’s phone through the iCloud network, but the FBI ruined their chance when they ordered that the iCloud password to be reset and were subsequently shut out of the network.

“We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal,” Apple described in a customer letter published on February 16, 2016.

In fact, we may not even know the amount of data the FBI has access to, as evidenced by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who revealed that the American government was keeping extensive phone and internet records on its citizens. If limits aren’t set, the United States has the potential to mirror Syria, whose government spied on the internet activity of political dissidents against President Bashar al-Assad, or China, who has one of the most extensive internet surveillance systems on its citizens in the world.

The argument that this case is only about one iPhone owned by one terrorist is simply untrue. The FBI is strategically using this high-profile case to represent all situations when they’d like to access information on a phone. Whichever way the court rules will set a precedent for future instances. The government must be transparent about what information they plan to access and comply with legal search warrants, which will become murkier if the new software allows the FBI to unlock any iPhone without permission.

“I feel like [the FBI needs] to inform you ahead of time at least,” Adam commented on search warrants. “Or be a little more sensitive of people’s rights.”

The consequences of the outcome of this case stretch beyond United States borders. According to the New York Times, China is Apple’s second-largest market behind the United States, and the Chinese government has been pressing for greater surveillance of its citizens’ technology. If Apple complies with the United States government, it would become legally difficult to say no to China.

Apple deciding to go to court over this decision is not a market strategy to gain popularity. Apple is not being unpatriotic or disloyal to the United States either. Instead, they are doing their duty to protect the rights of the American people.

“We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country,” Apple’s statement continued. “We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.”

This case isn’t simply over one iPhone. The outcome will affect privacy features on all iPhones and set a precedent for similar legal cases. By preventing surveillance abuse from the government and criminals, Apple is acting in the best interest of the American people.