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Apple – Don’t tell, don’t ask?

April 1, 2016

Sometimes you can be too smart for your own good.

When it refused to provide a work-around to access the information on the San Bernardino County iPhone used by the San Bernardino terrorists, Apple was pretty sure it had the U.S. government over the barrel of public opinion.

Everyone in the tech world and at least half of the political world was spoiling for a fight over the privacy aspects of this and the Department of Justice was happy to oblige.

Even consumers took sides, although with the recent terrorist mass murders in Europe, the answer as to whether personal privacy should override public safety was getting a bit murky.

Of course it wasn’t just about consumer privacy. It’s about sales and brand loyalty.

There would be no reason to upgrade your phone or other Apple device every few months if nothing about the upgrade is better than what you have now.

With the filing of a request to vacate the original ruling the whole question of whether tech companies should cooperate with law enforcement in matters of this type became moot.

Now Apple wants the government to share.

Fat chance of that for now, at least with Apple. Although the government does have a history of telling private companies when it uncovers an existing flaw, there is no law compelling them to do so.

In a bizarre twist, the ACLU is now castigating the FBI for not sharing the method used to gain entry into the phone, citing cybersecurity risks.  Previously, the ACLU joined Apple in defending the company’s right to put privacy above national security.

It’s hard to see how holding out helped Apple. At best it was a Pyrrhic victory.

Now the whole world knows you can breach the password protection. Without access to the method used, Apple can’t defend against it without spending a whole lot more time and money than the original request would have cost.

Had they just quietly cooperated they could have controlled not just the message but the method.

According to news reports, the Feds have classified the method used.

That may not actually protect it, given that recent events indicate even high-level government employees don’t seem to be able to figure out when something is classified, but it’s the perfect excuse to tell Apple and the rest of Silicon Valley to take a flying leap.

There could be one silver lining in all this.

Belatedly, both the tech industry and the government are reportedly now serious about pushing for meetings on legislation to define just how far  the government can go when “requesting” help.

It’s way, way past time to have that conversation, but hey…better late than never.

Still worried about your privacy?

Remember…if you put your private information into any company’s internet-enabled device, it now belongs to the world, probably for eternity.

From → op-ed

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