The FBI had its way eventually and finally – after nearly a month – unlocked the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino attackers, Rizwan Farook. An attack that claimed 14 lives. A win for the investigative agency, but at what cost? Fueling the paranoia of smartphone owners worldwide that their precious phones – and extension of their being – are not all that ‘smart’ and vulnerable to hacking? Although Apple put up a tough fight for ‘online privacy’, which also rallied up support from other tech giants such as Google and Facebook, and relentlessly declined to unlock the phone, and create a ‘backdoor’ to help the agency in future investigations – a ‘third’ party found a way to unlock the phone – and many of us, including Apple, are mortified. Questions about the legal and ethical ramifications of this are being debated on the interweb and ironically over conversations on smarthphones!
The debate for online privacy has been up in the air for many years now, especially with the advent of smartphones and social media. The takeaway from this is that investigative agencies are carrying out their duty of protecting the people against the scourge of terrorism, competently and relentlessly – keeping up with the rapidly evolving technological changes, but on the other hand, this incident is a wake up call for firms and users that there is no such thing as full-proof security and ‘total privacy’. If one chooses to save all types of data, essential or private or sensitive, on their phone or online – it is vulnerable to hacking. With many governments, in recent years, coming under fire for their surveillance laws, it’s high time we come to terms to the fact our smartphones and online activity are being monitored – in order to keep us safe from potential and pertinent terror threats. In the FBI vs Apple case, both sides played their roles and were just doing their duty. There is a very fine line between surveillance and prying and both security agencies and technology firms need to respect that. The FBI may have won this round and set an ‘unacceptable’ precedent as a result – a bitter pill to swallow, but has also, hopefully, bolstered the resolve of companies and developers to patch up this ‘leak’ and others. So what about the lawsuit against Apple? The FBI decided to withdraw it.
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