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Apple versus the FBI – Apple fires opening shots

Anthony Caruana | March 2, 2016
Over the next few hours, Apple will be appearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee of the US Congress to discuss its views on the security of personal data on personal devices. The hearing is titled 'Balancing Americans' Security and Privacy'.

The FBI is asking Apple to weaken the security of our products. Hackers and cyber criminals could use this to wreak havoc on our privacy and personal safety. It would set a dangerous precedent for government intrusion on the privacy and safety of its citizens.

Hundreds of millions of law-abiding people trust Apple's products with the most intimate details of their daily lives - photos, private conversations, health data, financial accounts and information about the user's location as well as the location of their friends and families. Some of you might have an iPhone in your pocket right now, and if you think about it, there's probably more information stored on that iPhone than a thief could steal by breaking into your house. The only way we know to protect that data is through strong encryption.

Every day, over a trillion transactions occur safely over the internet as a result of encrypted communications. These range from online banking and credit card transactions to the exchange of healthcare records, ideas that will change the world for the better, and communications between loved ones. The US Government has spent tens of millions of dollars through the Open Technology Fund and other US Government programs to fund strong encryption. The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, convened by President Obama, urged the US Government to fully support and not in any way subvert, undermine, weaken or make vulnerable generally available commercial software.

Encryption is a good thing, a necessary thing. We have been using it in our products for over a decade. As attacks on our customers' data become increasingly sophisticated, the tools we use to defend against them must get stronger too. Weakening encryption will only hurt consumers and other well-meaning users who rely on companies like Apple to protect their personal information.

Today's hearing is titled 'Balancing Americans' Security and Privacy'. We believe we can, and we must, have both. Protecting our data with encryption and other methods preserves our privacy and it keeps people safe.

The American people deserve an honest conversation around the important questions stemming from the FBI's current demand:

  • Do we want to put a limit on the technology that protects our data, and therefore our privacy and our safety, in the face of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks? Should the FBI be allowed to stop Apple, or any company, from offering the American people the safest and most secure product it can make?
  • Should the FBI have the right to compel a company to produce a product it doesn't already make, to the FBI's exact specifications and for the FBI's use?
  • We believe that each of these questions deserves a healthy discussion, and any decision should be made after a thoughtful and honest consideration of the facts.
  • Most importantly, the decisions should be made by you and your colleagues as representatives of the people, rather than through a warrant request based on a 220-year-old statute.

 

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