Tom 2016-03-04 8:56 pm
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Apple vs FBI: Silicon Valley is on Apple’s Side

The conflict between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Apple has been going on for several weeks now. A 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino is the background of an attempt of the Feds to have Apple unlock an iPhone that belonged to one of the perpetrators. But the case is more than that, experts see it as an attack on privacy and a precedent-setting case that would allow the government and prosecutors to sue for active decryption or a backdoor for encrypted devices. Several important companies in the tech industry have expressed their support for the integrity of Apple on this issue.

The Amicus Briefs in support of Apple are can be viewed on the company’s website. Big names such as Amazon, Box, Cisco, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and AT&T all support Apple’s cause in their letters to the United States District Court of California and indirectly criticize the motives of the judiciary. Wide-reaching matters such as the lawfulness of strong encryption should be discussed before congress and not in front of a court, they argue.

Important figures in the tech industry, such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, had already chimed in and voiced their opinion on the issue. While Zuckerberg shares Apple’s standpoint, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates holds a more differentiated position, albeit still supporting a majority of Apple’s arguments. Relatives of the victims in the San Bernardino shooting filed in support of the government in the case and countered Apple’s arguments, while expressing that they were seeking closure.

A dangerous precedent

A total of 14 people died in the San Bernardino, California terror attack of 2015 and 22 were seriously injured at the Inland Regional Center. The mass shooting and attempted bombing was carried out by Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married couple of Pakistani descent. Experts claim that the FBI would have probably been able to access the needed data, but aimed to set a precedent with this case in order to open up ways in which Apple would be forced to cooperate on a systemic level.

The worst-case scenario would be that Apple might be forced to integrate a governmental backdoor into its operating system, which for now is designed in such a way that it prevents access to sensitive customer data by even the company itself. Backdoors always carry the risk of third parties gaining (criminal) access to the system and causing tremendous damage to the general usership by abusing the illicitly gained privileges.