With Apple, The Government Is Overstepping Its Boundaries

By: Tim Sparapani

What we’re seeing right now with Apple AAPL -1.92% is a classic case of law enforcement overreach. The FBI is putting extraordinary (and unprecedented) pressure on Apple AAPL -1.92% in the wake of the San Bernadino shooting which left 14 dead and 22 wounded. The U.S. government has filed a court motion to press Apple to rewrite its operating software so that it can investigate whether the shooter used his phone to communicate and plan with others.

That might appeal to some people who are looking for a quick fix for the threat of terrorism. But the truth is there are no quick fixes and the government’s move is an extraordinary threat to liberty. It also won’t work. A backdoor won’t stop terrorism, it will only weaken phone security with no likelihood of any kind of public benefit. The public, and policymakers, should help Apple resist the FBI’s pressure. The FBI’s proposal is dangerous for at least these three reasons:

It Won’t Prevent Terrorism

The government wants Apple to build an after-the-incident forensic tool to figure out what may have happened. But that will not actually deter or prevent terrorism. Terrorists will simply switch to using encrypted phones from other countries. At the same time, the government’s move will weaken security for all U.S. consumers. This cannot and will not stop committed terrorists.

It Sets A Terrible International Precedent

If the U.S. government forces this technology on Apple, it’s also giving this technology to the rest of the world. That means rogue regimes, dictatorships and oligarchs will have access to the same security busting technology as the U.S. government. One nation’s terrorist is another’s journalist, reformer, freedom fighter or human rights advocate. Limiting security on iPhones could put these people, who are often on the frontlines of fights against oppression, in grave danger.

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