The Daily Illini

Editorial: Supporting Apple's stand for liberty against the FBI

By The Daily Illini Editorial Board

Last week, CEO Tim Cook declared in an open letter to customers that Apple, the world’s largest technology company, stood in opposition to FBI demands to create a “backdoor” into the iPhone’s operating system.

When anyone mistypes a passcode into an iPhone too many times, it locks. First for a minute, then for five, then for 15, then for an hour.

Federal agents investigating the phone of a terrorist involved in the San Bernardino shooting in December have requested Apple develop software — which does not exist yet — that would prevent them from getting locked out while guessing the phone’s passcode.

This editorial board supports Apple’s defiance of the FBI’s order. Liberty is paramount in this digital age when it’s easy to excuse digital voyeurism under the guise of security.

Cook and his company have a security obligation, that’s true, but their obligation to liberty is a higher one. At this point, it’s not too great a leap to assume a key for unlocking Apple’s encryption, used on more than 100 million iPhones worldwide, would fall into the wrong hands.

“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,” Cook said in his open letter. “No reasonable person would find that acceptable.”

This editorial board agrees; it’s reasonable to trust the FBI, but again, a skeleton key like this software could make its way into evil hands easily.

This isn’t an isolated incident. The FBI has asked to unlock several devices in the last few months, even near our campus. In Nov. 2015, the FBI asked Apple to help open the phones of two people accused of bankruptcy fraud in Chicago. Apple has said no to every request.

And for Apple to highlight individual liberties isn’t an act of disregard for the horrors of the San Bernardino shooting. Terrorists want countries to act in fear because terror is the seed of tyranny — it’s in their name. Apple’s stance against dismantling liberty is a flick of the middle finger to the terrorists.

Benjamin Franklin once pointed out that those who give up a little liberty to gain a little security deserve neither and will lose both. He said that at a different time and in a different context, but his words ring true here. Giving up the liberty of personal information — for a generation that lives on its mobile devices — would strike a blow to our freedom as citizens.

Do not let fear determine our governance. Do not allow security to precede liberty.

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