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Why He Is Right

February 17, 2016

Tim Cook has put his foot down and said no to the FBI, and so he should

It exploded into the news, Twitter feeds and pretty much everywhere. Apple, the mighty rich and tremendously influential tech giant, made a clear statement portraying its sustained negative stance on bulk powers and state-sponsored hacking.

 

Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, announced on February 17th that Apple will appeal against a federal court ruling demanding his company to help the FBI break through security parameters of an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

 

But this proposition is fraught with danger.The weakening of even one link in the chain will weaken the whole system. Some have highlighted that by bypassing security parameters or cracking the code responsible for the safety measures on iPhones, it could invite the US government to develop mechanisms to break into other devices. The initial hacking would, therefore, act as a template for future hacks. The Snowden revelations, from a few years ago, revealed secret surveillance programs conducted by the NSA to snoop on citizens across the world, and so in the event of a successful breach of security on one device, this may empower the US government to expand its surveillance more broadly and effectively, while still lacking the proper oversight and full legal validation privacy advocates have emphasised repeatedly.

 

So Tim is right to appeal. Though it may not help prosecutors obtain the information they need to investigate criminals and terrorists alike, there is the clear unnecessary risk of exposing an even greater problem. This is not just Apple uprising against an excessive government only so that it can attend to its own business interest of satisfying consumer needs for the sake of retaining brand loyalty and profits; this symbolises a wider proposition. The risk of leaving any kind of loophole, in what is already such a tightly run system of Apple devices, is too high. The internet consists of so many malicious hackers spreading dangerous and damaging code and constantly on the hunt for vulnerabilities to exploit. Apple, selling some of the most popular consumer electronic devices in the world, will most certainly be a tasty target for those malefactors.

 

Therefore Tim Cook, who has also expressed concerns about similar measures being proposed in the UK with the new investigatory powers bill, is now facing the problem at home, in which he must contend with a desperately helpless government while trying to protect his company and its consumers. Can he win the fight? Whether he does or not, the result will, no doubt, make a significant shift in the intense debate about encryption, cybersecurity and national security in the modern digital age.

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