It has now been over a year since the big battle between the FBI and Apple over the concept of data privacy and whether or not a company could be forced to give up confidential user information to a federal agency upon request. We haven’t really heard much from either side, but that doesn’t mean that this conflict has come to a conclusion.
The FBI had attempted to force Apple to unlock one of their user’s iPhones who was a suspected terrorist. Apple refused, and this led to a battle between privacy and security. Apple was on one side of the conflict arguing that this would open up a whole pool of security risks if they designed a way to unlock phones. The FBI was on the other side arguing that these types of situations are a risk to national security. This conflict eventually reached the court level but had an odd follow-up – the FBI reported that they no longer needed Apple’s help and had unlocked the phone on their own.
For most people this was the end of it. That is far from the truth though because now we have this on-going dispute of security and privacy. Since this matter was never ruled on by a judge there is no conclusive answer to this problem. We are now a year later and everything about this has become hazy to the general public. As soon as another terrorist attack pops up with a situation in which unlocking a device is important, this issue is going to rear its ugly head once again.
Assistant Professor of Law William Synder commented on this issue and showed some concern for the current state of the issue:
“It hasn’t gone away. The question is whether you deal with it now when things are calm or later when the stakes are high.”
Issues of national security need immediate attention, and the delay of a court process is going to prevent that. This is why it is dangerous that the balance between privacy and security is still undecided and we can fully expect for this conflict to come back around.