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Reaching The Top of the Apple Tree – Is The FBI Overreaching Themselves?

Privacy questions we should all be asking in the digital information age.

In this day and age where nothing seems to be private anymore, we find it increasingly difficult to gain access to accounts when we need them most, and when the owner of the account is unavailable. But where do the rights to privacy end, and when does it just become a corporation stalling? Why is it such a big deal that a phone company refused to work with the FBI? As you guessed it, we are going to be talking about the most controversial topic around, FBI vs. Apple, and why it is important to name someone as a representative of you or someone who can speak on your behalf, even while you are alive.

The Scope Of The Farook Case

Who would have ever thought, that unlocking a phone and getting the information off of it would put so many FBI agents through the ringer? If you have ever watched NCIS, then you know how Abby has to take some pretty dramatic steps to unlock a perpetrators phone but has she ever hacked an iPhone? From the looks of it, that doesn’t look promising, as the government is having to ask Apple to unlock an iPhone that is associated with the mass killing in San Bernardino, California. Terrorist, Syed Rizwan Farook was the owner of the phone that is causing all the debate. As with any story, there are two sides.

The Government Demands

The Department of Justice has given a court order to Apple to unlock the phone. However, the FBI had taken it a step further, demanding a source code be written, in order to unlock the phone themselves. FBI Director James Comey claims that to adequately address all terrorist threats, they need to follow all the leads they can find. As Apple retains exclusive rights to the phones after they are sold, Apple cannot be seen as a bystander, but instead, a company impeding an investigation. Apple has disputed this several times with little success.

While this is something completely viable, the topic is not effectively covered by the laws we have in place. The singular piece of legislation this whole investigation is hinged on is the proper functioning of the All Writs Act, AWA, from 1789. This law required the assistance of companies to aid in an investigation.

Comey believes that to unlock the main phone in question, he will be able to pinpoint more terrorist threats, and move from reactionary, to defensive and prepared stance. While the FBI is thought as being an organization who has everyone’s safety in mind, could it be that their motives are clouded?

Apple’s Response

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, is adamant about safety and security. Apple products are undeniably the most secure in the market, once claiming to be unable to contact a virus, we have come to expect tight security in our Apple devices. In this case, Apple is more than proud of their advancements in encryption and the ability to keep their users’ data safe. They are refusing to answer the call of the government. Claiming that they are merely a third party in this whole incident and the fact that an iPhone is evidence is far-fetched to warrant this kind of demand.

The central point of concern for Apple is the future precedence that unlocking this phone may cause. They claim it will cause an “undue burden” to write the code, and unlock the phone. Referencing back to Comey, he is quick to point out that they are not looking for a massive number of phones to be unlocked, but one. The singular phone that was used to commit a mass shooting, killing 14 innocent people and harming 22 more.

With that being said, Apple does have a point. If they create a backdoor into their software to unlock this phone, who is to say that any phones linked with this iPhone are not going to have to be unlocked in a similar fashion? The code would already be written, but as Cook states, this kind of information can be quite a devastating tool when used incorrectly. Cook is more than happy to help where he can, without infringing on the privacy of customers, or endangering their entire infrastructure.

The People’s Response

The main point of concern for many people, not just Apple users, is what kind of precedent does this “backdoor” being opened mean? If Apple were to provide this code, does that mean it is universal, or can it only be used once? Will this mean that Apple is willing to sacrifice some of their security, for the sake of an investigation? What happens if this happened in their family, and Apple refused to unlock a phone that was used in that crime?

The questions that plague the public plague the FBI and Apple equally. While neither side truly wants to give into the others request, the public majority (51%) see Apple as the bad guy in this case. They are impeding an investigation of terrorism, and while they value their digital security, they also value the safety of their country.

The 38% of Apple supporters claim that the FBI is overreaching themselves in this case, and by no means do they need a code to unlock the iPhone. Apple also stated that the FBI attempted to overstep the security measures set up by Syed Rizwan Farook before the attack. Because the FBI tried to access the phone, with the password lock, Apple says that the FBI did this to themselves. If they would have read the public policy of IOS, and not tried to reset the iCloud password, causing an auto-backup to a known WIFI network. Because of that, Apple has to dig deep into the encryption on the phone.

Why You Need To Name Someone To Speak On Your Behalf

One of the biggest headaches many of us face is getting on the phone to pay a bill or solve some sort of problem, only to find out the representative cannot speak to you because you are not named on an account. Of course, we get very irate with them, but let’s face it, they are doing their job, even if that means denying a spouse access to an account. Try as we might, these problems are going to come up at all stages of life, and afterwards.

Planning for the Unexpected

As much as we all hate to admit it, the unexpected happens when we are the least prepared. Your family may not be ready to suddenly bear your burdens, and they will be too worried about you, to want to spend hours on the phone with a company to take of business while you are unable to. In this case, especially when it comes to taking care of the home, it is important to make it known to your lender who is able to access your account, and it shouldn’t just be limited to your spouse.

Go From Digital To Paper

In many cases, we believe that the internet, the cloud, and our whole life is more secure if we keep no physical record of it! While that is true in some cases, if something happens to where you cannot enter the password or login information, it becomes tough for your family to handle your accounts. To make it easier, neatly write out any information they will need to access your accounts and verify your identity. Keeping a physical record of account numbers, credit cards, loans, and so on will ensure there are little to no problems handling your affairs.

A Real-Life Application

No matter what we can say about keeping a physical record of accounts and important information, something a little closer to home for all of us to keep in mind, is keeping a phone with a pin or lock. Most of the time, we wouldn’t think of it. We know that if our phone is lost, we are pretty safe until we can call the company and shut it down. Yet, a scary situation that thousands of EMT and ER staff face every day is those people who have not set up their emergency contacts. No matter your phone, but Apple especially, you can create a “Medical ID”, which you can set to display on your iPhone’s lock screen. Because the phone is locked, and we will assume you are otherwise incapacitated, the ER nurses only have access to what you have prepared in advance. If you do not set up emergency contacts, they do not know who to call to get your medical background, your allergies, family history, or just to let someone know where you are.

As we saw in the Farook case, having your information encrypted is a beautiful thing, it keeps your information safe and secure, but when something happens, it can prove to be a challenge for everyone involved to get the information needed. Don’t let another day go by without naming someone as the emergency contact for your accounts. While you are at it, write down the login information and account numbers, then lock them away with your title to your house, car, and all your valuable information.

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