Privacy Versus Security

In the debate over whether Apple should build software to allow the FBI to break into iPhones, the focus is often too much on privacy. Privacy is important, of course, and the debate we are having now is good. But this is really more about security than privacy.

What’s the difference? When a law enforcement agency gets a court order to get to the data on your phone, or online account, or from a notebook in your desk in your home, that’s a privacy concern. Lump that together with other privacy issues like what data your credit card company has about your purchases, or what data the stores have about you. Privacy is basically others having information about you.

Security is also about that. But it is mostly about illegal activity — someone breaks into your phone, or online account, or your home. Everyone thinks security is good. But people disagree whether privacy is good, especially when it comes to cases where law enforcement wants the data to prevent crimes or prosecute criminals.

However, privacy and security are tied together when it comes to backdoors. Whether it is a formalized passcode or key to get into a phone or account, or it is a complex operating system modification, the privacy concern turns to one of security. There’s no way to guarantee that the backdoor will only remain in the hands of the good guys. It is logically impossible to build a backdoor system that will only be used for good. Once the backdoor exists it can be leaked, stolen or even re-created from scratch.

Apple has in the past turned over information to the government when properly requested. Want to know more? Apple gives you statistics here. The Electronic Frontier Foundation independently reports on Apple and others here.

At the same time, Apple is making its devices and its online services more secure. That means it will be harder for the bad guys to get to our data. It will also be harder for Apple itself to get to our data, should a court order it. Look at the current state of things here.

So it comes down to this: the more security Apple builds into the iPhone and iCloud, the less data the government will be able to get from Apple in investigations and court cases. Are we willing to sacrifice our security for that? Whether you agree or disagree, it is an exciting time for debate on privacy and security.

Comments: 10 Responses to “Privacy Versus Security”

    Douglas Mattingly
    2/25/16 @ 10:31 am

    To continue to allow government police entities to chip away at our privacy is playing into the hands of a very few terrorists. The police already have the ability to collect all the information they need to carry out their responsibilities, and they have shown themselves incapable of restraint when it comes to gathering information on Americans. There is no need to hand over our devices to them.

    michael dowling
    2/25/16 @ 11:42 am

    it is important to allow the police ,FBI authorities etc, full access to Apple and other organisations to combat crime.If we have nothing to fear then there is no problem.This comment applies to my own country the U.K as well.How else are we going to tackle internet crime,terrorism and child pornography if we do not assist the FBI etc

    John Stires
    2/25/16 @ 12:59 pm

    The Justice Department has 9 iPhones in 12 cases they’ve wanted Apple to break for some time now. San Bernardino’s “just this once” is a red herring and typically dishonest. Imagine the governments of other countries just salivating at the thought of getting into the phones of their citizens… off the charts.
    Thank you Tim Cook.

    John Stires
    2/25/16 @ 1:02 pm

    How does this differ from waterboarding a terrorist? “Just this one time,” is nonsense.

    2/25/16 @ 1:05 pm

    Privacy is MOST important to the 1%, maybe because they fear scrutiny.
    SECURITY is for the 99% AND the 1% as well,
    A bomb blast will not choose who gets hurt.
    MY privacy is not worth my security.

    Heide Seeman
    2/25/16 @ 1:17 pm

    Tom Cook is right! Nazi Germany did a lot of bad things for so-called security.
    It was called “Heimatlandsicherheitsdienst” translated directly into homeland security.

    2/25/16 @ 2:40 pm

    If we’re actually hearing the truth about all this, I’m disappointed that the trillions spent on our security has left us with such incapable protectors. If I had kids, I’d tell them to work in security. What a racket!

    2/25/16 @ 11:52 pm

    I know that the FBI and other Government Agency’s think having Apple make this ‘Backdoor Key” will solve they’re problems. However once the bad guys get their hands on this “Backdoor Key” they will be able to alter any and all data on any iPhone or iPad device. Which could be used to falsely incriminate any one. As well as mislead American citizens, FBI, CIA, Military, Foreign Governments etc. into a variety of deadly scenarios. Once this Key is made the bad guys will do anything to get it.

    Shirley Anderson
    2/26/16 @ 10:11 am

    STASI, KGB, FBI, CIA, DINA, SSI, GESTAPO, MUKHABARAT, “1984”, Ben Franklin – “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    John Riddle
    2/29/16 @ 3:45 pm

    San Bernardino may not have occurred if our immigration policy wasn’t so politically correct. Review of social media was not permitted. So now because of their incompetence, they want even more power.

Comments Closed.