This one’s a toughie.
FBI Director James Comey said the bureau’s battle with Apple is the “hardest question” he’s ever seen in government.
Should the government force Apple to give it a way to bypass a security feature? Should a court require a private company to create software?
There are no easy answers, so we turned to the best way to solve any issue: an unscientific Internet poll at HeraldNet.com. This week, we asked if Apple should be forced to comply with the FBI’s wishes, and 65 percent voted yes.
But what are we saying yes to, exactly?
The FBI wants access to the iPhone of one despicable individual: San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook. We can probably all agree that Farook voluntarily gave up his posthumous civil liberties. So far, so good.
However, the FBI needs Farook’s passcode to get into the phone. With a million possible combinations and built-in delays after incorrect entries, it could take anywhere between 10 seconds and forever to guess. It’s unclear if they’ve tried “1234,” but that’s probably worth a shot.
Barring that, the FBI needs a way around Apple’s security encryption, even if the company has to be forced to create one. This is where we run into terms like “slippery slope” and “dangerous precedent,” and it’s probably both of those things. The Manhattan district attorney said he has 175 other iPhones he wants to crack; and Apple says it’s a “back door” that could be used to “wreak havoc on our privacy and personal safety.”
Apple has a point. On the other hand, it could lead to information that exposes other terrorists and saves lives. The FBI also has a point.
Last time there was a debate like this over technology and privacy, the NSA chose for us, and we didn’t know until Edward Snowden blew the whistle. At least this time we’re having the conversation.