Apples Fights FBI's Demands

Apple Letter to CustomersThis is a pivotal moment in privacy for the country. Apple is under pressure from the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Justice Department for access to phones belonging to shooters who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, late last year.

Tensions are high in this situation. The Justice Department said, "It is unfortunate that Apple continues to refuse to assist the department in obtaining access to the phone of one of the terrorists involved in a major terror attack on U.S. soil."

But Apple and civil liberties organizations argue that this could set a bad precedent against consumer privacy. The company would need to develop new technology that could be used in other situations. In a statement, CEO Tim Cook said, "The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that's simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices."

A message to customers on Apple's website further explains the company's position:

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.

The implications of the government's demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone's device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone's microphone or camera without your knowledge. 

Discussion Starters:

  • What's your view? Should Apple meet the government's demands? What are the most convincing arguments on both sides?
  • Read Cook's entire message to customers. How does he balance logical arguments, emotional appeal, and credibility?