On December 2, 2015, tragedy struck in San Bernardino, California when Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, shot and killed 14 people and seriously injured 22 others during a training event at the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. In the months following this horrific and tragic attack, a great debate was sparked around the world concerning the boundaries of a person’s right to privacy.
Days after the attack in San Bernardino, the FBI and the U.S. Government searched for answers behind this act of terrorism. The FBI sent a letter to Apple demanding that they help unlock the shooter’s iPhone by creating new software that, when loaded onto the device, would bypass Apple’s current iPhone security system. By unlocking the shooter’s iPhone, the FBI was hoping to find the motive of the shooters, and correspondence between the shooter and his co-conspirers. Apple rejected the FBI’s demands, and stated that they were “unwilling to undermine the security features of the phone.” Apple was opposed to developing a “backdoor” for its iPhone security system because they believed that the new software would be “too dangerous to create” since it could potentially unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession. Apple believed that their decision was about more than unlocking one iPhone. To unlock one iPhone would run the risk of setting a dangerous precedent that would threaten the civil liberties of the American people. The U.S. Department of Justice filed an application urging a federal judge to force Apple to create the new software to unlock the iPhone. The hearing for this issue was scheduled to occur on March 22, 2016, but, on March 21, the FBI announced that it had found a third party to unlock the shooter’s iPhone.
When looking at the bigger picture on this matter, there is a concern regarding Privacy Rights vs. the U.S. Government’s protection of the American people. One issue on this matter involves the fact that the U.S Government would now have the capability to unlock and access the information on anyone’s iPhone with the newly created software. Many people believe that this gives the U.S. Government too much power over their security and privacy rights. Another issue on this matter includes the implication that the new software would give hackers and other individuals the ability to illegally unlock iPhones at their own discretion. This would potentially spark a new rise in iPhone related crimes. Finally, this matter also involves the issue of the U.S. Government’s exclusive ability to both unlock and access iPhones with the newly created software. No other government in the world would have this same power.
People continue to question the ethical compass and legality of the actions of the U.S. Government. Only time will tell what doors this security breach has opened and how it will affect our future individual security interests with emerging technologies.