Apple, writs and opposition

By Greg Caceres, Columnist

Information builds and inspires everything we do. This is a confused age of overload, and information drives it all.

As the U.S. government stumbles to catch up to this overload, more and more cases of attempted control and containment pop up. Government officials want information under their belt, and from World War II to Cold War intelligence to the War on Terror, they have worked tirelessly to get it there.

And now in 2016, the most intelligent information seekers that history has known struggle to open an iPhone.

One of the most recent acts of terror against the United States and its people, the San Bernardino case, brought to light a great need: the need for security and protection, largely in the form of information control. Sadly, fear has taken hold of the nation, and we seem on track to sacrifice far too much for safety.

In the standoff between the public and private sectors, the U.S. representing public safety and Apple representing privacy rights, the demand was made of the tech company to ‘unlock’ the essential door. In this case, it was the culprit’s iPhone. In it — the government suspected — were answers and advanced knowledge that would prevent further dangers, and the result was strong-arming Apple, requiring more than they were willing to do.

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What was asked then was the creation of a ‘backdoor’ to supersede the encryption tech that smartphones depend so heavily on. That tech secures all our media, conversations and financial and health data, all of which could be hugely threatened by the backdoor strategy. Overriding encryption hurts the public at large, not just certain criminals, as the government suggests.

In a statement disputing the government’s demands, Apple CEO Tim Cook made a stand for individuals despite the situation’s complexity, saying that “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.”

The case against Apple’s refusal was dropped once the government recovered what it wanted on its own; but then a similar case came up in New York on April 4. The difference between the two cases was refreshing, if nothing else. The magistrate overseeing the case, in a change of pace for our often bloated government, rejected law enforcement’s request for warrant and demands for Apple’s cooperation.

Of course, this is being appealed to the ends of the earth and won’t be over any time soon, but it’s definitely a step toward privacy and justice for all. A pledge of allegiance recitation? Sure. But applicable? Very much so.

We need more consideration for all involved.f course the subjects of terror attacks and drug dealers’ lawlessness need justice, but what of the privacy and rights of those who have nothing to do with the case? How much more justice is required for those who have nothing to do with a crime, and why should the innocent suffer threats to privacy which the guilty deserves? Of course safety is important, but some costs just aren’t worth paying.

Apple understands the price, at least in part. They report that about 6 percent of information requests by law enforcement are for access to personal accounts — the rest are generally iPhone owners working with law enforcement who reach out to the company because their phones have been stolen

Of this 6 percent, Apple supplies only about 27 percent of what is requested in the course of a year’s requests and responses. They review each and every case in its unique situation, examining the request’s legality, finding alternatives to revealing information, and keeping a clear line of communication between the government and the iPhone owner, respecting each party faithfully.

In that, Apple is due a lot of respect by the public, and likewise by the justice system, for its efforts to adhere to justice and safety.

Apple’s initial statements on San Bernardino and other cases say a lot about the company’s corporate heart; that they want to be as transparent and law abiding as possible — all while thinking forward to the implications of their actions — is noteworthy.

It’s a great philosophy, not only for us on the ground with iPhones in hand, but hopefully something that the justice department and respective officials will look at, admire and model.

Greg is a freshman in DGS.

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