I paid my credit card bill on Monday using my iPhone. On Sunday, I filed my taxes from my iPhone. Smartphones are now ubiquitous hubs of shopping, banking, and finance for even the most non-tech savvy users. We are able to do this securely and safely through encryption, which protects data from theft, surveillance, and other nefarious deeds.
On Tuesday evening, word came out that a judge in the San Bernardino terrorist attacks demanded that Apple unlock the iPhone 5c of a shooting suspect. This comes after Apple steadfastly refused to put a backdoor of any sorts into its devices, fearing the same method used by authorities could be used by hackers and other data thieves.
In response, Apple CEO Tim Cook released a open letter on the company’s website, not unlike what his predecessor, Steve Jobs, did in April 2010. Cook explains in his response the need for encryption, while simultaneous recognizing the tragedy in San Bernardino.
Cook warns encryption skeptics of the dangerous consequences that a backdoor into iOS devices could cause. Cook wrote:
The government would have us remove security features and add new capabilities to the operating system, allowing a passcode to be input electronically. This would make it easier to unlock an iPhone by “brute force,” trying thousands or millions of combinations with the speed of a modern computer.
Even though technology advocates and experts recognize the utility and importance of encryption, the people who regulate the laws on which we must abide are simply ignorant. As Cook said, the FBI’s intentions are mostly likely in the right place, but are nonetheless ill-advised.
Possibly the most damaging aspect of this controversy is who and how the conversation of encryption is being brought to the public eye. We’ve reached the point where quasi-influential political figures (read: presidential candidates) have come out in favor of disabling encryption.
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump openly sided with the abolishment of full encryption like Apple does during a Fox & Friends interview, saying “Who do (Apple) think they are? They have to open it up.”
For people outside of the tech bubble, comments like Trump’s will be their first exposure to encryption. They will make the false conclusion that supporting encryption is equivalent to supporting ISIS. They will believe encryption is anti-American. They will take all of this asinine talk for truth as their privacy and digital security goes by the wayside.
It doesn’t matter whether you love Apple or hate them at the moment. This isn’t about preferences for Apple, Windows, Android, or whatever operating platform. This is about all of us and our security, and protect it, Apple and the rest of Silicon Valley must fight the good fight.