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Apple made waves when, on Feb. 16, 2016, it released a letter to its customers that straightforwardly stated the company’s disapproval of a court order it was given. While the court order was issued in the interest of gathering evidence for a major FBI case, Apple viewed it as out of line and as a threat to the security of iPhone users everywhere. What’s the story behind Apple’s stance, and what are the implications of this court order for consumers in general?
Apple Opposes a Backdoor iOS
Apple strives to cooperate with the authorities and to help them with criminal cases, and the company did all it could to help the government after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino in December.
However, the FBI eventually asked Apple to create a new version of the iOS. This new operating system would have a backdoor that circumnavigates some of the security features, such as encryption, that make iPhones so difficult to crack. The FBI wanted to install the new iOS on the phone of one of the suspects in the San Bernardino case in order to gain access to files on the phone.
At a glance, this might seem like a good idea. However, as Apple explained in its open letter to its customers, “In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession… 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. 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.”
Does the Government Have the Right?
While privacy advocates find the court order that was issued to Apple to be a blatant step in the wrong direction for consumer privacy, the question remains: Does the government have the right to force companies to intentionally create weaknesses in their products’ security features?
Certainly, there are valid points on both sides of the issue, but ultimately it boils down to the fact that the court order asked Apple to establish a frightening precedent that could have disastrous consequences down the road.
The judge who issued the order used the All Writs Act, which makes it illegal for companies to withhold customers’ data from law enforcement when there is a good reason that the company should turn it over.
CNN sums up Apple’s side of the argument like this: “Code is protected speech, so the government can’t compel Apple to write a new version of iOS any more than it can force an author to write a story.”
The eyes of the entire technology world are on Apple and its court case because the outcome could have far-reaching effects.
AnchorFree — A Strong Privacy Advocate
AnchorFree has been a strong presence in the VPN sector for over a decade, and since 2009, it has registered 16 patents. We strive to do everything in our power to protect our customers’ sensitive data and make the Internet a place where everyone can feel secure.
Encryption is not intended to be a tool for criminals to hide their activities, but it is a shield for consumers who want to avoid becoming victims. Even people who think they have nothing to hide still benefit from encryption and other security features. When private information is easy to access, identity theft becomes easy.
Take Steps to Protect Yourself
The issues at stake in Apple’s court case serve as a stark reminder of just how important data privacy is. While we all wait with bated breath to see how the case turns out, we can all take steps to protect our own data in the meantime. It is important that you:
- Use a VPN, particularly when you’re on public Wi-Fi. Hotspot Shield is a free VPN that disguises your IP address and puts a wall between your information and hackers.
- Be careful about when and where you enter sensitive data into websites, such as when you’re making purchases.
- Frequently double-check your privacy settings on your social media accounts, and don’t post anything that would make it easy for someone to embarrass you or steal your identity.
Encryption, and the technology backdoors that sneak around encryption, are hot topics in today’s tech-focused world. The subject is sure to continue to be a focal point of debate for some time to come.