The ensuing battle in the courts between Apple and the FBI have our emotions running high. Torn between accessing the data of a dead terrorist and protecting the rights of individuals worldwide. What we assume should be very cut and dry is no longer black and white. It has implications that will affect every person and every business worldwide. Rest assured; the ruling will be felt worldwide, and business leaders need to pay attention because it will affect the way you do business.
[ ALSO ON APPLE/FBI: The economics of back doors ]
For over 13 years I have helped defend our nation at home and abroad. This issue runs deep within me and my family. We have served in various positions in law enforcement and the military. Perhaps that is why I have struggled for three weeks to put coherent thoughts on paper. After a lot of reading and thinking on the subject, I believe it comes down to these three questions.
1. Is it possible that an individual or group might need protection from their government?
In a nutshell, cryptography keeps our private lives private. Cryptography is the modern day dead bolt lock that protects us from intruders. It protects our medical records, credit card information, Facebook account, banking information, pictures, and correspondence with loved ones. It also protects the proprietary data that our companies use to maintain market share. Cryptography even safeguards the location of our kids. If your children have smartphones, they can be tracked. If someone can crack the encryption on your smartphone, then they could follow your kids.
What about the government whistleblower who has pertinent information (against the government) in a legal case. Certainly it would not be in the best interest of the state if the information was made public. Cryptography allows the government whistleblower to avoid illegal search and seizure. Cryptography keeps private information in the hands of those who have a need to know.
2. How does technology intersect with our lives?
I remember when and where I used email for the first time. It was my freshman year of college, and the school had just implemented a state of the art computer lab. Computers and email (at that time) were still a novelty. For most Americans computers were fun and nice to have but not a necessity. In fact, at the time, my Dad was the only person I knew who used email regularly. Today, we carry computers 10 times more powerful in the backs of our pockets. From them, we can access bank accounts, alarm systems, share pictures, and even access business-related applications.
As fascinating and empowering as these devices are they also represent potential vulnerabilities. The computer your children complete their homework on could be used by a computer savvy pedophile to spy on your kids. It could also be used to monitor remote business executives within your company to steal proprietary information or gain insider information for the purpose of committing insider trading. Without encryption we are (potentially) allowing anyone and everyone access to every facet of our lives.
Technology is ingrained in the fabric of our daily existence.
3. Is violating the privacy of citizens an exception or the rule?
I am not a lawyer, but I do know that a warrant is required in most instances to violate an individual's privacy. The constitution not only protects us from unreasonable search and seizure but the courts have consistently upheld a right to privacy. Without such rights checks and balances do not exist. A government could raid the homes of its citizens at will. Such lawlessness would result in widespread fear and panic.
In our society violating the privacy of citizens is the exception and requires judicial approval before being carried out. When agencies are granted those exceptions they don't use a master key because a master key for every home in the United States does not exist. They rely on the compliance of the target, or they use extraordinary measures.
After considering these three questions, it is apparent that we must protect the right to privacy of our citizenry. We must avoid any solution that provides a master key to any encryption technology. Violating the privacy of our citizens must remain the exception and not the rule.
It should require legal measures that ensure the rights of the government and the rights of citizens are properly considered. The solution the government seeks in Apple vs. FBI would shift the burden of executing such exceptions to private industry versus the state. Furthermore, it would make violating our right to privacy too easy.
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