Apple Versus the FBI

Ben Thompson:

This is why I’m just a tiny bit worried about Tim Cook drawing such a stark line in the sand with this case: the PR optics could not possibly be worse for Apple. It’s a case of domestic terrorism with a clear cut bad guy and a warrant that no one could object to, and Apple is capable of fulfilling the request. Would it perhaps be better to cooperate in this case secure in the knowledge that the loophole the FBI is exploiting (the software-based security measures) has already been closed, and then save the rhetorical gun powder for the inevitable request to insert the sort of narrow backdoor into the disk encryption itself I just described?

Then again, I can see the other side: a backdoor is a backdoor, and it is absolutely the case that the FBI is demanding Apple deliberately weaken security. Perhaps there is a slippery slope argument here, and I can respect the idea that government intrusion on security must be fought at every step. I just hope that this San Bernardino case doesn’t become a rallying cry for (helping to) break into not only an iPhone 5C but, in the long run, all iPhones.

I am convinced that Apple is doing the morally correct thing here, by fighting the court order. I’ll bet most of you reading this agree. But like Thompson, I’m not sure at all Apple is doing the right thing politically. The FBI chose this case carefully, because the San Bernardino attack is incendiary. Do not be mistaken: Apple is sticking its neck out, politically, and they risk alienating potential customers who believe — as many national political figures do — that Apple should comply with this order and do whatever the FBI wants.

By fighting this, Apple is doing something risky and difficult. It would be easier, and far less risky, if they just quietly complied with the FBI. That’s what makes their very public stance on this so commendable.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016