Is Apple right to refuse a request by the FBI to decrypt the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter?

Source: Getty

Ken Munro, partner at Pen Test Partners, says Yes.

This is a one-shot solution for the FBI, limited to helping solve the San Bernardino case – but not in the way you might think. First, if Apple gives in and its iOS is opened to a government agency, terrorists and other threats will simply find other products and providers to use instead. They will change tactics. In short, if Apple caves, the authorities get the terrorists once and once only. Meanwhile, every legitimate Apple user is then potentially exposed. Is it really worth it? Law-abiding people say they’ve got nothing to hide from the government, but what if the “unlock tool” which Apple may be forced to produce – and which will work on every Apple phone – gets into the wrong hands (and it will)? Then every thief and hacker could unlock your phone and steal every password for every app you’ve ever used. Fraud, identity theft, stalking, maybe worse. And why is the FBI trying to use a 200 year-old law that was never intended for this function? If new legislation is needed, then legislate and open the process to scrutiny.

Andrew Day, a researcher at The Henry Jackson Society, says No.

Apple’s grandstanding is extremely dangerous. It is disrupting an FBI investigation into a major terrorist incident which saw 14 people murdered. As well as blocking a criminal investigation and undermining national security, it now refuses to accept the ruling of a US court. The company is being asked to help the authorities gain access to the phone of a deceased terrorist. Apple says this request is “unprecedented”. What is genuinely unprecedented is a large tech company unilaterally deciding that the government has no right to access the phone of a mass murderer. FBI investigators have been unable to access the killer’s phone for two months. They are still in the dark about many of Syed Farooq’s communications prior to the attack. They need this information to retrace the killers’ steps and, critically, to identify any other terrorists that the perpetrators were in contact with. The real threat to our societies come from the likes of Farooq, not from those working to protect us.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

Related articles