The tug of war between government and the tech industry over the question of encryption has been going on for months, perhaps even years now. But this latest case that involves the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooters is perhaps the tipping point of the debate. Snowden calls it the most important tech case of the decade and one that could, and most likely will, set a precedent for years to come. That is the “chilling” precedent that Apple is trying to fend off, and it won’t be doing so alone. Joining the growing chorus, Google CEO Sundar Pichai took to Twitter to show his support of Tim Cook’s letter to Apple customers.
The reason why this particular case has become the rallying point of those for and against encryption is because of its severity. December last year, a couple believed to have ties with terrorist organizations opened fire at a Christmas party in San Bernardino, leaving 14 dead in their wake. The couple later died in a shootout with police, leaving behind only trails of their motives, one of which was an encrypted iPhone running iOS 9.
The second reason for the case’s importance is because, for the first time, Apple is being ordered by a federal court to actually do what the company promised never to do: introduce a backdoor to its devices and services. The federal judge’s order was, to some extent, meant to be a compromise. The FBI supposedly only wants Apple to disable the “10 tries and wipe” feature on the iPhone so that it could then attempt to brute force their way into the device. For Apple, there is no technical or practical difference from what the US government has been pushing for from the beginning. Because in order to comply with that order, Apple would essentially have to create a version of iOS with a backdoor. And for Apple, once that cat is out of the bag, there’s no way of putting it back in.
Google, via Pichai, finally breaks its silence. spanning over five tweets, he reiterates the reason why Apple, privacy advocates, and now Google, oppose the court order. Both companies have and do cooperate with law enforcement to hand over data it has legal access to. But forcing them to create ways to hack their own customers is a whole different scenario, and one that would open a legal and privacy can of worms.
1/5 Important post by @tim_cook. Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy
2/5 We know that law enforcement and intelligence agencies face significant challenges in protecting the public against crime and terrorism
3/5 We build secure products to keep your information safe and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders
4/5 But that’s wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices & data. Could be a troubling precedent
5/5 Looking forward to a thoughtful and open discussion on this important issue
Already sides have been drawn, even among lawmakers, with some painting Apple as a company that protects criminals in the name of protecting customers. There is perhaps little doubt that encryption does present a stumbling block for law enforcements, but the issue revolves around the centuries old debate of balancing state powers and citizen rights. But more pertinently, Apple and its supporters worry that this incident wouldn’t be an isolated case and would set a precedent for future cases as well. The battle, which could even escalate to higher courts, goes on, and Apple doesn’t seem to have any indication of backing down.
SOURCE: @Sundar Pichai