Michaela Merz's personal blog site

Apple vs. FBI – Where’s The Problem?

Here’s the situation: The San Bernardino shooter was in possession of an iPhone. It is locked and will delete all  of its content  after 10 unsuccessful tries. The government went to Apple and asked for help unlocking the phone. The only way that this is supposed to be possible is a special knit update for this particular phone would allow the government an unlimited number of tries to get the phone unlocked.

I am an IT security engineer. I pulled my first hacker out of a network at a time when Apple soldered a few boards in a garage over in California. IT security is very important to me – so is privacy and confidentiality. I fought many battles against surveillance and the governments intrusion into our life and will continue to do so – with technology and political engagement. But in regard to the “San Bernardino” case – I am in the government’s corner.

Here’s why:

Remember the movie “The Untouchables” ? The FBI going after Al Capone? There is that thing about a ledger that contains alluntouch (copy) the reports of Capone’s illegal activities. And the FBI wants it. What if it would have been in a security safe? The FBI might have asked the manufacturer to help open it without risking the content. The FBI might also ask car manufacturer to help open a trunk without damaging a valuable or historical vehicle.The government can search your home, touch and examine your most treasured or private possessions, may even plod through your underwear or sift through your nightstand drawers.  An irky feeling I know – but there’s nothing wrong with it – as long as they have a lawfully obtained warrant.

Same situation: The FBI has physical possession of the phone. They didn’t sneak into it. They didn’t hack into a phone of an unsuspecting person. They took it into evidence based on a warrant issued by a judge. Not some secret FISA court but an open and transparent criminal court process.

So why is everybody crying “the end of the world is near” ?

This is a battle Apple shouldn’t have entered into. Smart phones are – to keep the picture alive – a data safe. And we should fight tooth and nail to not allow the government to sneak into our mobile and other digital devices whenever they want – especially if it happens in secrecy. But the FBI did everything by the book in this case. Due process was observed.

Apple is well within it’s rights to fight the warrant. This is the difference between secret and sneaky FISA proceedings and a transparent court process. But I hope they lose this process. Because I don’t think criminals dead or alive should be able to keep their “ledgers” hidden away and out of reach from our legal system. I think law enforcement should be able to access the contents of security safes and phones as long as they observe the chain of evidence and due process.



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