Americans surprise me sometimes, but especially right now. The Donald is a serious contender for president (*pinch*…nope, still true) and his rise is apparently driven by the large number of authoritarian minded people in this country. And depending on who you believe, between 38% and 46% agree with Apple’s decision to fight the FBI. Less than half. Apparently we’ve got quite a few people who like “big government” when they think it will keep them safe (and they think the government won’t spy on them, just those darker skinned people).
So many places to start on this one, but first…how quick we are to abandon our freedoms. I wonder how many people that sympathize with the ranchers that took over the wildlife preserve over lack of freedom would also say “heck yeah” to giving up the privacy of our phone. I bet it’s not insignificant crossover. When did the government gain the right to know everything to do and say and associate with in the name of keeping us safe? What’s worse is that as a test case, the info contained on this phone is not likely to be earth shattering.
Second, this is the definition of a slippery slope. Both federal and local authorities have shown time and time again they will use any advantage they can leverage in pursuing their agendas. I love their vigor. But they’ve also crossed and pushed every line that they can. Stingray cellphone tracking. Covert phone record collection. Secret National Security Letters. That’s just a handful we know about. Once you create this technology, that’s precedent. It matters in future cases. And it’s hard to say where the courts will make law enforcement stop, assuming it doesn’t get into the hands of hackers, private investigators and other countries.
Third, and I think this is getting lost in the argument a bit, this is bad not only for Apple for US technology companies. The blowback from CIA and NSA programs is already hurting companies domestically. Who wants to buy a printer that might be tapped by the CIA? Who in China wants to use a phone that the US government might tap (don’t even need a warrant overseas) much less their own government. Better to go with, say, Samsung, or a company not even doing much business here. Who want to use cloud computing services hosted here when the US might spy on them? It’s not just consumers either. European companies are forcing US tech companies to build physical data centers within their borders to get around US authority to spy on them.
I don’t think I need to tell you, particularly anyone living in the Bay Area, that the tech industry is a key leading growth industry for our country. It would be a shame to open the window for more international competitors over this.