Decision in Apple-FBI case to set precedent

The dispute between Apple and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has rattled everyone, and spawned a raging National Security vs Consumer Privacy debate. Though the row is in the US, it has captured global attention, as the world is caught up in a suspension, waiting which party will win.
The standoff has a bearing on the public. According to a Pew Research Centre poll conducted late last week, 51 percent of respondents said Apple should “unlock the iPhone” used by San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, while 38 percent said the company “should not unlock” the handset. The remaining 11 percent did not offer an opinion.
Farook, along with his wife, shot to death 14 workers in San Bernardino before the couple was killed by police. The FBI wants to know where they had been and who helped them.
The case took a turn when a federal judge in Los Angeles on Tuesday ordered Apple to help government investigators seeking to read data on an iPhone used by Farook.
Indeed, each party in the dispute has a point to make. In the US, the dispute between Apple and the FBI is part of a larger debate within Congress, the administration and the technology industry about whether law enforcement and intelligence agencies should be able to access encrypted communications.
The issue has sharply divided lawmakers, and thwarted past efforts to reach a compromise.
Apple’s standoff with the FBI has so far touched off an intense debate. Many public figures are taking sides — from technology moguls to politicians and business figures. On the side of Apple are those making a privacy argument: If Apple creates a way to hack into its phones for the FBI, the technology could fall into the wrong hands and do a lot of damage.
People on the FBI’s side are making a security argument: Law enforcement must get into Farook’s phone as a critical part of its investigation into the San Bernardino terror massacre.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has joined the list of tech leaders rallying behind Apple. Former NSA contractor and privacy whistleblower Edward Snowden pointed out: “An @FBI win against #Apple results in an insecurity mandate. A world where Americans can’t sell secure products, but our competitors can.”
Google CEO Sunder Pichai said forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy, while Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said, “We stand with Apple and thank Tim Cook (Apple’s chief executive) for his leadership.”
Apple has thrown down the gauntlet. It refuses to cooperate. Cook has vowed to fight the order, saying the software doesn’t exist and creating it would set a “dangerous precedent” and potentially put billions of iPhones at risk of being hacked or spied on by governments. Apple’s response to the court is due on Friday.
Interestingly, the US billionaire and Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, took a different stance from that of the tech leaders. “This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information. They are not asking for some general thing, they are asking for a particular case,” he underlined.
As a number of public figures back the FBI, this may exert pressure on the Apple. The White House too backs the FBI’s view that the Apple should create forensic tool that would only be used to crack Farook’s iPhone 5c. Yet this has consequences as security experts and Apple itself claim the creation of such a bypass inherently weakens iOS encryption, threatening millions of iOS devices.
Whichever way the debate takes, it will in no uncertain terms set a precedent not only in the US, but also abroad as many countries have been complaining that the tech companies conceal information that could jeopardise their national securities.
A compromise that addresses national security and customer privacy is required to solve the Apple-FBI showdown.

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