Apple-FBI Wrangle Over Unlocking iPhone Strays Into Political Polemic
He described the tactics used by the team from the other company with whom he was negotiating as, “if you can’t convince ‘em, confuse ‘em.” Because it’s now fighting a political fight, reliance on actual facts isn’t necessary or even beneficial for Apple. This is why the company is taking on a posture as the great protector of everyone’s rights when it claims that its refusal to help the FBI extract information from an iPhone used by a terrorist is really a First Amendment issue. This is also why I’m getting a flood of emails from clueless PR representatives informing me that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates of all people doesn’t understand encryption, or how the current court order is really an assault on freedom or how encryption is a basic human right. So I think the time has come to recognize what’s really going on here. As is frequently the case with anything that involves Washington, it’s not necessarily what first meets the eye.This is also not a battle about human rights or Constitutional rights. Judges have the right to issue court orders and it has been a law in this country for a very long time. The fact that the law is old does not make it less relevant in a case about mobile device encryption. The law is technology neutral. What’s really happened is that Tim Cook picked the wrong battle to fight. The chances of success in fighting to keep facts about a dead terrorist private are slim or worse. Dead people don’t normally have privacy rights and even if they did, the device in question wasn’t owned by the terrorist in question. However, Apple’s attempt to divert attention through confusion is made more credible by the government itself when someone clearly lied when saying that the request to get information left behind by Syed Farook was a one-time event. The government clearly had more demands lined up and waiting in the wings. This situation has reached the point at which it’s almost a side issue whether the government actually finds anything on Farook’s phone. Now it has devolved into an exercise in political theater. The facts have long vanished and all that’s left are empty assertions by both sides. Sadly, you won’t hear the last of this for a while, but at least you’ll know that any actual relevance to technology or personal privacy has now vanished. Perhaps now we can change the channel.
This is not a battle by the FBI seeking to challenge someone’s ability to use encryption. While the agency would obviously prefer that people didn’t, this isn’t today’s battle. Today it’s about getting to potentially critical information on a locked cell phone.