During last week's TechRepublic podcast, we discussed Apple's current standoff with the FBI over the iPhone that belonged to one of the one of the attackers in last year's San Bernadino mass shooting. We asked listeners to send us their thoughts on the issue and where they stand. And, and we got a tremendous response.
Now, we're also running a broader poll. Register your vote:
Half of listeners who responded sided with Apple. In their comments, they made arguments about privacy rights and the slippery slope of creating a backdoor to access the iPhone in question. Here's what a few of them had to say:
"I applaud Tim Cook for standing up to the US Government's overreach into our personal lives. This started with the Patriot Act, which has been blindly renewed three times based on fear-mongering. Secret courts, secret prisons, detaining uncharged people for years. I don't think the public really cares much about losing our right to privacy. I am not a private person per se. I don't care who reads my email. Nor am I into conspiracy theories.
I see our country becoming more militarized through the local police forces. Our government can fly drones and see inside houses; record the license plates of every car; take photos of every person that visits; intercept all of our email, cell phone conversations and texts.
The US Supreme Court has become more and more conservative aligning on the wrong side of the street, removing protections our constitution intended to cover.
Who draws the line in the sand? Thank you Tim Cook and Apple taking a stand."
"As you point out, if the FBI wins this case, (decryption) will become an everyday request. They're tracking tens of thousands of suspected terrorists, after all. So Apple will have to create a business unit that cracks iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and so on. Presumably so will Google and Amazon. It won't be staffed by Tim Cook or his Executives, it will be done by low-cost technicians. Nor will it be run on a single computer without internet connection and armed with explosive charges in case of unauthorized intrusion. And of course the code will leak out, probably within days. Silicon Valley is ground zero for movements like anonymous, who are ideologically opposed to any secrecy of any kind. And who will validate the authorization for each request?"
"As a former law enforcement employee in the I.T. area...and having had to do the 'breaking in' of laptops, I have developed an opinion.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD GOVERNMENT HAVE THE RIGHT TO BREAK ENCRYPTION.
First, there are other methods to obtain the information they desire, such as interrogation.
Second, the FBI, especially, does not incur any trust from me. The only time my Linux web server was broken into in a 10-year period was via the FBI server, because they had permissions! Of course, as soon as it happened, we physically disconnected them from our network.
Third, I agree with Tim Cook and Mr. Detwiler that this is a very slippery slope. As much as I dislike Apple products due to the expense, I totally agree with Mr. Cook. The government is noted for asking for an inch and taking a mile. "
"I personally feel that Apple is correct in their position and am not willing to give up additional freedom to government. Snowdon's revelations and declassified CIA operations have repeatedly demonstrated that government agencies bend laws whenever they think they can get away with it."
Almost a third of commenters sided with the FBI. Many made statements about security coming before privacy and said Apple should comply with authorities. Here's a few comments from that camp:
"This is an attempt to defeat terrorism. There may be no information on the phone or there may be a LOT of information on the phone or there may be a little information on the phone that willl expand to a LOT of information.
If lives might be saved, this is a NO BRAINER - The government has enough sharp technical people working for it that they could eventually look at the code on the chips and find what they are asking for." -Robert F.
"The argument that this can create a 'slippery slope' are nonsense. These unlock requests can be handled on a case by case basis and based solely on their own merits and would need to go through the proper courts.
The argument that if Apple created a back-door, then anyone would be able to access it is also nonsense. Apple could easily create a back door that would only work with a highly secure and very strong passcode. This passcode could be a one-time use password that would be generated by a token which would be kept in Apple's possession. Upon proper court order, and failing all appeals, the government would take the device to Apple where they would generate the one-time use token password that would unlock the device and only that device. If there is a worry that Apple could use the token for their own purposes, then make it so Apple has a token which generates only half the pass code and the Govt. has another token which generates the other half. One cannot work without the other."
"Nothing should be beyond the realm of a judicial approved court order. That is what our justice system is built on. This is no different than entering a house, car, pc, bank account with judicial approval. Having the ability to search this phone for additional information that could help bring other responsible persons to justice and prevent such a despicable act from happening again is most important. You give up your privacy when you break the law. The software developed for this case can be used on this one phone and none others. It follows the same basic principal for privacy that we have in our homes that has been protected for centuries.
I would boycott all Apple products if Tim Cook does not allow this to happen and it must happen quickly."
"If I had my druthers I would place my trust in the FBI well before Apple. If Apple had any concern for the safety of freedom loving people they would back off their stubborn position and work with the FBI to come up with some method of breaking into any device they create. It would have to be maintained under the utmost secrecy and require rigid judicial oversight for access. Or, as has been bandied about today, if there is no way to break through the current encryption method"
And about 17% of listeners didn't take a clear stance on the issue. Now tell us what you think in the poll at the top.
Apple/FBI battle highlights IT blunders and need for strong mobile device management (TechRepublic)
Survey: Americans split on Apple vs. FBI privacy dispute (TechRepublic)
Apple's Tim Cook: We'll fight 'iPhone backdoor' demands from FBI (ZDNet)
In legal showdown, FBI vs. Apple could make or break Silicon Valley (ZDNet)
Amy Talbott is a former associate editor at TechRepublic.