What’s In It For Apple?

The San Bernardino iPhone debate continues. Apple was on Capitol Hill this week fighting the FBI in their quest to have Apple build a custom OS that could get agents into the iPhone.

In the past, and indeed with this case, Apple has provided other help, such as handing over iCloud backups and other server data. So it isn’t that Apple is definitively against giving information to law enforcement when properly requested. They just don’t want to create a backdoor of sorts that would leave a gapping hole in iOS security.

But what if they did? If Apple did what the FBI wanted, told them that this was a one-time thing, and provided the FBI with the special OS, then what would happen? The whole incident would be over. Apple would claim that it was a special case. Not many people would argue. Only a few privacy and security experts would voice an opinion on the subject. And there is always plenty to talk about in privacy and security, so it wouldn’t even get that much attention.

Why is Apple fighting? Some say it is marketing. But half the people in polls seem to think Apple should work with the FBI. And probably most of the other half wouldn’t complain too much if Apple had done this in the first place.

The problem is, of course, that it would be setting up a precedent and this would only be the first of many iPhones that Apple would need to modify for the FBI and other agencies. Eventually, the code that Apple uses for this would leak out and it wouldn’t just be the government that would be able to get to the information on our iPhones. That’s what Apple is afraid of — compromising security and weakening iOS.

Is it possible that Apple is doing this for the best of reasons? That it isn’t about money. That it isn’t about popular opinion and marketing. That it isn’t for any other reason other than it is the right thing to do?

Steve Jobs always talked about how Apple is about making great products. Most corporations are either about maximizing shareholder value, maintaining or increasing revenue, or satisfying customers. But Apple is supposed to be about making great products.

So which decision makes a better product? Heading down the road that leads to devices with backdoors? Or working to increase security so that the only person who has access to your data is you?

Comments: 9 Responses to “What’s In It For Apple?”

    Peter Yum
    3/2/16 @ 8:24 pm

    The debate here is missing some very key elements. What has the government done in the past to assure the right to privacy? Have they been monitoring thousands of citizens under the name of security before? Illegally? What type of recourse is there if the government decides to change their mind again? The actions of the government created this type of suspicion, should the government have kept their word, then perhaps Apple would be glad to make an exception for this particular case.

    Tom Gonser, Sr
    3/3/16 @ 10:37 am

    Quite appropriate to raise this issue in your blog post, because so few people understand the issue. People are keenly focused on issues of personal security vis a vis terrorist threats; and anything that on the surface seems to hinder efforts to optimize public safety is immediately seen as negative. Apple is challenged with explaining the much more sophisticated reasons for its response.

    Ted Beim
    3/3/16 @ 11:47 am

    I haven’t seen any evidence of lately that the gov. has been able to keep anything secret; IRS, Snowden, Clinton, etc. If possible, why can’t the FBI track the phone number’s of the terrorist to see who he has been calling. I’m under the impression that has been possible for a long time now. I seriously doubt any “plans’ are stored on the phone.

    Henry Granger
    3/3/16 @ 3:33 pm

    It is hard to be pro-Apple when Snowden revealed that Apple had handed over data to the gov’t before – possibly through some type of coersion. But, I think Apple has learned their lesson and is trying to do the right thing this time. This is bigger than just one iPhone. The price of freedom is that you can’t be protected at all times from evil. I accept that level of insecurity to keep my freedom.

    Peter Balsam
    3/3/16 @ 7:02 pm

    Of course, once the government gets its hands on any software Apple produces, they will use it forever. When was the last time the government told the truth? In addition, as Apple has pointed out, if the government can force you to create software, they can force anyone to create software. Forcing anyone to do work is theft; you are stealing their time. And they will do it well into the future whenever it is convenient to them. Anyone trading security for privacy gets neither.

    3/5/16 @ 10:31 pm

    Wasn’t there a recent case where a software hacking company offered a million dollars to the first one who can break iOS (to then onsell that hack to its contacts in military and foreign governments)? – If I was an Apple employee working in iOS development I’d certainly be listening. – So… Apple is right in resisting.

    James Green
    3/15/16 @ 4:51 am

    Apple should not comply, thier products are popular because they are secure. The government is notorious for lying about everything all the time. Apple will lose business.

    3/20/16 @ 5:42 am

    Hey! Who ever u are, who is silly enough to say “make a backdoor” for the authorities – encryption cannot be designed to have a backdoor! If you believe it can, then start rethink this scenario a few times more – none of us could ever feel reasonable secure ever again. This is about our general rights, not about a few crooks we all want to fight. Backdoor my ass, I believe Phill Schiller would say!

    Rick Harker
    3/21/16 @ 7:38 pm

    Here’s a thought. Why don’t the FBI give Apple the phone to retrieve the data.
    Seems obvious why the FBI want that software and using terrorism as an excuse is feeble.

Comments Closed.