Apple vs. FBI: National security must come first


Graphic by Nina Zhong

Move over Edward Snowden; a new debate over citizens’ privacy rights has recently pushed its way into the limelight. On December 2, 2015, the United States was once again thrown into a state of paranoia and fear when yet another mass shooting occurred at an office party in San Bernardino, California, where Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, opened fire. The shooting resulted in 14 fatalities and severe injuries to 22 of the estimated 80 people in attendance. Following the attack, both assailants were killed in a shootout with the police near their home.

The San Bernardino shooting has sparked a debate on citizens’ privacy rights due to a public conflict between the FBI and Apple. Following his attempted escape, Farook’s iPhone was recovered from the couple’s getaway car. The passcode lock on the Apple device has kept the FBI from retrieving any useful information from the device. In order to open it without damaging the precious contents it could contain about motivations for the attack, the FBI reasonably requested that Apple create software to open the iPhone by allowing the government to bypass the security lock. Apple has refused because if it gives up the encryption now, it will be expected to comply in future cases.

Many Americans, including myself, are thrown by Apple’s main concern. Though Apple claims it is protecting our private information, it seems as though it is really protecting its own products. Even if the defense of privacy is Apple’s main concern, is the safeguarding of an individual who broke the law more important than our national security? Clearly not. When people break the law, especially to the degree of which Farook and Malik did, they are forfeiting their basic rights to privacy. In addition to this, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria took credit for motivating the attacks, making Apple’s refusal even more perplexing. ISIS is currently a threat abroad as well as at home, so any information that the FBI can retrieve from the phone might be crucial to defending against future attacks or infiltrating the terrorist organization.

San Bernardino was not the end of ISIS’s reign of terror—there have been and will be more attacks. At the moment, our nation is left to wait for the next attack, but if the FBI accesses the information of Farook’s phone we will have the upper hand. We can use the information to prevent future attacks through preparation and understanding the inner workings of ISIS. This need for information is why I am unsettled by Apple’s fear. If there is another attack, the FBI should be able to access that crucial information instead of having to go to court. In these fear-filled times, the FBI needs the cooperation of Apple to protect American citizens from tragedies such as San Bernardino. By cooperating, Apple can give the FBI the information it needs to build a strong defense against ISIS.


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