Apple was Right to Refuse Government Searches on Devices

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Photo by Eugenia Cardinale.

By Jake Herman, Video and Public Relations Editor

Investigating terrorists, such as the San Bernardino shooters, is essential for the FBI and other federal agencies to strengthen national security, but just how far is too far when the privacy of citizens is in question?

Apple was correct when they refused to assist with FBI and Department of Justice requests to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s encrypted iPhone, as it would have set a dangerous precedent regarding privacy had they complied.

According to a Feb. 16 letter to customers from Apple CEO Tim Cook, the backdoor software designed to unlock the iPhone proposed by the FBI would circumvent several important security features and would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

Essentially, the software would function as a “master key” which would have the possibility to unlock any phone someone has at any time.

Although the software has a chance of helping the FBI attain information that would help them combat terrorism in the short term, the creation and use of this iPhone “master key” software puts Americans’ basic rights to personal privacy in long-term jeopardy.

According to a Feb. 25 motion filed by Apple to the Central District Court of California, which had previously encouraged Apple to assist the FBI, the company questioned the safety and legality of unlocking the phone, citing Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights that could be violated by the software and the disastrous precedent that it would set. Apple’s lawyers also warned that an avenue for criminals could be created with the decrypting of the phones.

If the government were able to access the cellphones of all those involved in court cases, the Fourth and Fifth Amendments would could be cast aside as people would be subject to unreasonable searches and seizures of their devices. This would also diminish the protection that pleading the Fifth Amendment gives to those involved in court cases as prosecutors could simply use data on someone’s cell phone to speak for them.

Student’s cell phones could one day be accessed by administration at schools nationwide, including CHS. It seems extreme, but all it would take is one precedent to be established to set the ball rolling in this dangerous direction. It’s scary enough to think about the government being able to access anyone’s iPhone at any time, let alone the catastrophe that could occur should the “master key” fall into the wrong hands.

That situation, though both frightening and appalling, is completely avoidable by simply never creating the software in the first place.

While the FBI is fighting for the common good by investigating the San Bernardino shooters, Apple was right to stand up for the right to privacy for average Americans such as CHS students. Rather than obstructing justice, Apple obstructed the government from invading Americans’ privacy in the future.