Home / Opinion / Readers evenly split in iPhone standoff

Readers evenly split in iPhone standoff

Respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll were evenly split in the showdown between Apple Inc. and the U.S. government.

Apple and federal officials are facing off in the courtroom. Last week, the company said it would fight a federal court order to help the FBI unlock an iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who with his wife killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., in December.

The FBI wants Apple to disable or bypass the security feature that deletes all of an iPhone’s data after 10 incorrect password attempts. Doing so would allow the FBI to try to unlock Farook’s iPhone by “brute force,” using a powerful computer to automatically try millions of password combinations.

Apple officials in a court filing this week said the Justice Department has sought access to at least a dozen iPhones since September 2015.

In an open letter to Apple customers, CEO Tim Cook wrote that “the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.”

He contends that complying with the court order would require Apple to build a “master key.” Added Cook: “In the wrong hands, this software—which does not exist today—would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.”

Apple and its supporters also argue that compliance with the order could set a “dangerous precedent.”

The Justice Department says it would allow Apple to retain custody of the software and to destroy it after use on Farook’s iPhone. And it contends that Apple’s objections are rooted in marketing strategy, not concern over customers’ privacy.

The robust smartphone encryption methods currently used by Apple and rival Google date to 2014, after Edward Snowden’s revelations about government surveillance.

Apple must file a response to the court order by Friday.

Nearly 725 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Feb. 22 and 23.

In the showdown between Apple and the U.S. government, whose side are you on?

Apple:  50%  U.S. government:  50%

COMMENTS:
A trap door will always be found by random crackers (criminal hackers) no matter how cleverly disguised. In order to be able to get in, you need a door. In order to keep bad elements out, you need a good solid software door from modern up-to-date trapdoor cryptography.
—Carl Helmers, founding editor, BYTE magazine, 1975-1980

When in doubt, don’t trust the government.
—Keith Dunkin, Pittsford

Both sides should be able to find a way that allows the FBI to access data on a phone of a criminal or accused criminal only after a federal judge deems it appropriate. I am against anyone (esp. the government) having access into private material unless a judge gives the OK (i.e., a warrant) to do so. In this case, it is pretty obvious these two terrorists committed multiple murders and we should be able to get into their phones.
—David Wagner

Kudos to Apple! Any communications made with that iPhone by email, text or voice would have left an electronic “trail” with his carrier somewhere. That information should already be within reach of the FBI, NSA or one of the other spy agencies. This is an excuse to try and take away yet another freedom from all Americans. Enough is enough!
—George Thomas, Ogden

Apple should stand their ground. The government has used other means to date to access or discover information as needed. There are no shortcuts, and privacy should not be compromised more than it already is.
—Persephone Modeste

The solution to protect personal privacy while enabling the government to fight terrorism is simple—require Apple to unlock phones only with a court order, similar to the wiretap orders issued by the so-called intelligence court. This is not hard to figure out, but as usual in politics these days, the solution is blocked by posturing for the benefit of both sides. Apple wants to appear the fearless crusader for its customers’ privacy, and in the process lock up the phone market for drug dealers, terrorists and assorted other criminals who want a guarantee of privacy. Must be a big market segment for them. The Obama Administration, for its part, wants free rein to invade the privacy of everyone because they want government to run pretty much every aspect of our lives. The rational, middle ground loses, as usual.
—Bob Sarbane

There is no longer an imminent danger from this brutal and senseless attack in California. This is a fishing expedition on the FBI’s part and will prevent nothing or little of further relevant information. Mainly it threatens the integrity of the business and iPhone system. Also, law-wise, there is no statute to cover what is being asked/demanded by the FBI. This is a bad precedent for government overriding citizens’ rights to privacy of constitutionally guaranteed rights.
—Garry Geer

If the “owner” of the phone is deceased, then I side with the U.S. Medical records, autopsy all become public. A body no longer has rights unless the deceased specifically requested privacy after they have passed. If the owner is living, I side with Apple.
—Dom Pullano

As noted by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, “There is nothing new in the realization that the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few in order to protect the privacy of us all.”
—Peter J. Gregory Esq., Rochester

The fact that the phone is owned by the perpetrator’s employer changes the game significantly. There should be no expectation of privacy by the perpetrator (who is deceased, anyway). I do support the need for a court order in such cases, which the FBI has. Further, I am sure that Apple has the capability to open this particular phone without leaving the door open for all iPhones. This could be done privately, without disclosing any software/coding secrets to the FBI or the general public.
—Arnie Boldt, managing partner, Arnold-Smith Associates

When considering terrorism, all perceived rights of privacy are off the table. Our national security must be our first and only consideration, and we must do whatever is in our power, to protect.
—Natalie Summers

Apple is smart protecting itself, giving its customers renewed faith in their company as they
“defend our civil rights.” Now, if there was proof that there were elaborate plans or contacts in this locked iPhone, I’d be all for the government using its power to “break in,” but the maybe might have valuable information on the iPhone doesn’t do it for me even though I do not understand how Farook’s mass murder doesn’t warrant probable cause.
—John Costello

Unfortunately, this is just one more case of trying to “open a door,” but in reality opening “more harmful doors.” If the technology was already sitting on a shelf, I might feel differently; however, under the current circumstance “let dead dogs lie” seems the more appropriate path to take.
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

The Justice Department needs the information on Farook’s phone. He and his wife killed 14 people in a terrorist attack. The offer for Apple to develop the software, use it themselves to get the information off the phone, then destroy the software would seem to satisfy all involved.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D., Vanguard Psychiatric Services PC

Open the phone! It is from a dead terrorist. I don’t think the FBI is asking to open everyone iPhones, are they?
—Mike Gooding

These people were terrorists, not common law-abiding citizens! They killed 14 people. Terrorists need to know that they can’t hide through any computer or phone. By not creating a means to bypass the security feature for known terrorists, they are harboring terrorists. Terrorists buy phones.
—Jennifer Apetz

If it was Tim Cook’s family killed by these terrorists, it would be done by now. They don’t need to release any software to anyone—just give the FBI what they need.
—Robert Jeffery

I think the government should have a major shutdown at Apple. A good show of force would get the message to Apple and the rest of the country that terrorist don’t have a place in America.
—Ken Pamatat, Creative Images Photography

Your poll fails to provide a third option. It should also be mentioned that the government screwed up handling the iPhone. If they hadn’t, they wouldn’t be where they are now.
—Ryan Peck, Rochester

How different is this than a search warrant that is properly issued. Does the warrant have an exclusion for the locked closet in the master bedroom? Certainly Apple could use technology to deal with this phone alone and not have it be pervasive to all Apple iPhones.
—Alan Ziegler, Futures Funding Corp.

It’s a tough call (pun intended).
—Rich Calabrese Jr., Rochester

A VERY icy slope.
—E.M. Friedman, retired

I’ll take Apple’s word for it, that the phone was compromised by some FBI employee the day after it was captured. It’s not Apple’s job to bail the government out from its incompetence.
—Hal Gaffin. Fairport, NY

Our government, at all levels, has become the bully in the schoolyard. Peaceful resistance!
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency Inc

2/26/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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