February 18, 2016—Apple stood up this week to the FBI, publishing a letter detailing worrying requests from the government that would jeopardize data and invade the privacy of millions of iPhone users in the country.
At the South Carolina town hall on Wednesday, GOP candidates chimed in with their opinions on Apple’s stance.
Ben Carson said that “Apple and probably a lot of other people don’t necessarily trust the government these days” but a compromise between freedom and security would have to be made “because right now we’re faced with tremendous threats …. Apple needs to sit down with those trustworthy in the government … and hammer out the relationship.”
Ted Cruz stated that, while he believed that Apple had a “serious argument” about not being forced to develop and install an operating system with a backdoor, law enforcement still had the “better argument.” He also sided with the federal government by saying the judge’s order to Apple complied with the Fourth Amendment:
“They have a binding search order. And, listen, any time you’re dealing with issues of security and civil liberties, you got to balance them both. And I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can protect [you] from terrorists, and also protect our civil rights.” …
“I believe that Apple, anyone, nobody has a right to defy a legal search warrant.” …
“[The] Bill of Rights prevents the government from seizing our information without any evidence, but when you have a criminal, when you have a terrorist, we know the San Bernardino terrorists were radical Islamic terrorists.”
Marco Rubio reiterated Apple’s argument in its letter that being forced to open a backdoor bypassing encryption would endanger the vast majority of “good” iPhone users, but that it was a difficult issue “because on the flip-side of it, there might be valuable information on that phone from the San Bernadino killers that could lead us to preventing future crimes or future attacks—future terrorist attacks.”
Carson, Cruz, and Rubio all agree, then, that Apple is under court order and cannot flat-out refuse to have anything to do with developing a backdoor operating system. Therefore, it should find a way to cooperate with the government so that the loss of privacy and secured data is limited only to the particular phone the FBI is targeting.
Donald Trump commented on “Fox and Friends” the same day that he “agree[s] 100% with the courts” and thinks that “we should open [the terrorist’s phone] up. I think security over all.” And to Apple: “Who do they think they are? No, we have to open it up.”
Apple is concerned that the government is using the All Writs Act of 1789 to “justify an expansion of its authority.”
If Apple complies with the order and builds the software, the government will then have a precedent from which it can base further surveillance and security demands off of. In the future, if the government decides to spy on citizens via their own iPhones and collect their data, it can point to this current situation as backup for its actions. And while it’s entirely possible for Apple to develop the operating system so it’s tailored to the terrorist’s phone and targets the data in it only, other agencies would certainly start making similar demands, and the basis for the software could easily fall into the hands of sophisticated cybercriminals and hackers, giving them the potential to break into everyone else’s iPhones.
The All Writs Act gives courts the power to issue orders that are necessary for carrying out other legal orders. Its usage in the past has been to order companies to hand over information they already have about the subject. However, in this case, the court is ordering Apple to build a tool that will enable the government to obtain information about the subject, who had no connection to Apple whatsoever other than the fact that he bought a device made by the company. In other words, instead of being asked to hand over its own data, Apple has been ordered to help hack into someone else’s data.
It is completely justified for Apple to oppose the government’s request in light of the precedent that would be set, along with the sheer amount of data that would be put at risk and the potential for the invasion of millions of iPhone users’ privacy. On the other hand, however, the government does have a responsibility to protect its citizens.
Who do you side with? Do security and safety win over freedom and liberty in this case? Share your thoughts below!