ATN: The Apple customer letter and the conflict between cybersecurity and government oversight

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InsightaaS: Let me start with a disclaimer. I'm not a big fan of "the fruit company:" I use no Apple products, and don't care for how they are positioned.

That said, I do appreciate the stance that Apple is taking to protect smartphone-resident data. The crux of the issue addressed in the "Customer Letter" dated February 16 is that the government - using a bizarre re-interpretation of the All Writs Act of 1789 - is asking Apple "to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the [San Bernardino] investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession."  

As the letter from Tim Cook says, "In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable"

In my opinion, Cook is right. He's right when he says that it is "simply not true" that such a tool would be used only in a single instance; it is inconceivable that a piece of code that would immediately become the most valuable asset on earth would simply be discarded. And he's right in asserting that a "reasonable person" (at least, to the extent that I am a member of that group!) would find the government's demand unacceptable.

As we learned with RSA backdoor revelation in 2014, government is cognizant of the power of encryption, and willing to take determined steps to gain access to theoretically-private data. But this approach disproportionately affects reasonable people (and their employers) more than the terrorists who are the government's target - as Cook says, "criminals and bad actors will still encrypt, using tools that are readily available to them."

Kudos to Apple for taking a principled stand. 

 

A Message to Our Customers

The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.

This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.

The Need for Encryption

Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.

All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data...

Read the entire customer letter here: http://www.apple.com/customer-letter/

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