Unless you just crawled out from underneath a rock, you've probably heard about the ongoing wrangling between Apple and the FBI over the iPhone for the alleged San Bernardino terrorist. There has been a lot of debate around the situation, and accusations have been made by both parties about the motives of the other. The FBI claims that Apple is using this as a marketing stunts. Apple is accusing the FBI of trying to set a precedent that will allow them unlimited access to every phone.
In full disclosure, I do own a iPhone, and have for years. I've been very happy with it, and I can't imagine switching to anything else. I am a fan of Apple products, and am currently writing this post on a Macbook. I've listened to the debate with great interest, not because I am an Apple customer, but because I work in Information Technology and understand what is at stake in this debate.
Despite what people have been saying, I think this debate is not about privacy. There has been a great deal of talk around how giving the FBI access to the terrorist's locked iPhone would set a precedent with law enforcement, giving them the ability to freely access the data on any person's mobile phone. Although I think that law enforcement would use this capability liberally, I don’t think this is the biggest concern for me. What I think is at stake here is the bigger issue of personal security.
Take a moment to think about what is on your mobile phone. You have contact information about yourself, as well as your family and friends. You may have bank account information, credit card details, and personal health information. You've probably taken photos, some possibly a bit embarrassing. Your GPS-enabled phone may contain details about your recent locations. If a hacker were able to access your phone, they could get access to all of that data. They could find out where you bank, who you hang out with, what you look like, and where you like to spend your time. In some cases, a hacker might even be able to take pictures with your camera, or listen in on your conversations.
Sounds like science fiction? Read this 2013 article on Tech Crunch. It's already being done on desktop and laptop computers, and, guess what? It's being done on mobile phones as well. See this article from the security company, Sophos. If this all sounds conspiracy-minded, read this article about a man who was arrested in 2010 for hacking into webcams and blackmailing his victims. It's not about privacy, it is about our own personal security.
If Apple is forced to create a "back door" into their iPhone operating system, it will only be a matter of time before a hacker finds and exploits that "back door". Now, before you say that this is for the national security of this country, I want you to think about one thing. Imagine you have a teenage daughter. Do you want to give a pedophile the ability to track your daughter's movements or take pictures of her without her knowledge? Do you want to risk her personal safety in order to give the FBI a way to hack mobile phones? That is what is at stake here.