Privacy and security
Code to ruin?
The rights and wrongs of Apple’s fight with the FBI
CITIZENS have a right to both security and privacy.The difficulties arise when these two rights are in conflict, as they now are in the battlebetween the world’s most valuable company and its most famous law-enforcement agency.Apple has refused to comply with a court order to help the FBI unlock an iPhone used by SyedFarook, one of the terrorists involved in the San Bernardino shootings in December. Thecompany says the government’s request fundamentally compromises the privacy of its users;the feds say that Apple’s defiance jeopardises the safety of Americans (see article).
Some frame the stand-off in terms of the rule of law: Apple cannot pick and choose which rulesit will obey, they say. That is both true and beside the point. The firm has the right to appealagainst a court order; if it eventually loses the legal battle, it will have to comply. The realquestion is whether Apple’s substantive arguments are right. That hinges on two issues.
The first is whether the FBI’s request sets a precedent. The law-enforcers say not. This is notan attempt to build a generic flaw in Apple’s encryption, through which government can walkas needed. It is a request to unlock a specific device, akin to wiretapping a single phone line.The phone belonged to a government department, not Farook. Apple and other tech firmsregularly co-operate with the authorities on criminal cases; this is no different. Yet Apple isbeing asked to do something new: to write a piece of software that does not currently exist inorder to sidestep an iPhone feature that erases data after ten unsuccessful passwordattempts. Later models of the iPhone than the one Farook used are harder to compromise inthis way. But if the court’s ruling is upheld, it signals that companies can be compelled by thestate to write new operating instructions for their devices. That breaks new ground.
The second issue is whether that precedent is justified. And that entails a judgment onwhether security would be enhanced or weakened by Apple’s compliance. In the short term,the answer is that security will be enhanced. Farook was a terrorist; his phone is the only onebeing unlocked; and the device might give up the identity of other malefactors. But in thelonger term, things are much fuzzier.
Security does not just mean protecting people from terrorism, but also warding off the threatof rogue espionage agencies, cybercriminals and enemy governments. If Apple writes a newpiece of software that could circumvent its password systems on one phone, that softwarecould fall into the hands of hackers and be modified to unlock other devices. If the capability tounlock iPhones exists, so will the temptation for the authorities to use it repeatedly. And if techfirms are forced to comply with this sort of request in America, it is harder for anyone toargue against similar demands from more repressive governments, such as China’s. Thisnewspaper has long argued against cryptographic backdoors and skeleton keys on thesegrounds. It is possible to imagine a scenario that might override such concerns: if informationis needed to avert a specific and imminent threat to many lives, for example. But in thisinstance, Apple’s case is the stronger.
This battle presages others. If the courts rule against Apple, it will work to make its devices sosecure that they cannot be overridden by any updates. In that event (or, indeed, if the techfirm wins the Farook case), legislators will be tempted to mandate backdoor access via thestatute book. If Tim Cook, Apple’s boss, is not to hasten the outcome he wishes to avoid, hemust lay out the safeguards that would have persuaded the firm to accede to the FBI’srequest. Tech firms are at the centre of a vital policy debate (see article). Apple has rejectedthe authorities’ solution. Now it must propose its own.
1.law enforcement 执法部门
例句:The SEC, however, functions as law enforcement.
2.involve in 介入
例句:A late booking may involve you in extra cost.
3.in terms of 依据
例句:This is an ecological approach, the occurrence of disease is examined in terms of the interrelationship between man and his total environment.
4.attempt to 试图
例句:He made a desperate attempt to hijack a plane.