Encryption Wars

Encryption is nothing new.

According to Frank there has been a debate over the legalities and practices in data encryption since 1997 (1997).The recent ‘flare up’ on the issue has again sparked a major controversy. Who is right and, most importantly, who is wrong? Should Apple unlock the iPhone for the FBI? Or rather, can they even be forced to unlock the special ‘iDevice’? There are numerous issues involved in this debate and those issues will be answered. One of the major issues regarding encryption is the current federal case in which the U.S.

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government is suing Apple to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone 5c. Now, this is where old misconceptions need to be broken. It was a long time ago that cell phones and other devices were password/pin protected and all one needed to access the data was a memory card reader. That is because these devices did not use encryption – as per Merriam Webster “to change (information) from one form to another especially to hide its meaning” – that meant that while one could not make a phone call, people who knew what they were doing could extract all of the dirty, dark secrets on the device. This, in the grand scheme of all things, leads back to the FBI unlocking the suspect iDevice with Apple’s aid.

As per Page, some have argued that Apple is using this as a “marketing strategy” and that they only care “because they think it hurts their brand” (2016). This is absolutely not the case and, according to Tucker & Abdollah, Apple’s CEO – Tim Cook –– has been on the record stating, ‘”We have no sympathy for terrorists”‘ (2016). Apple also has no reason to make this a marketing strategy. A recent Gartner reports shows that they have sold 15.5% of the world’s smartphones in 2015 (2016).

In fact, that number is just what Apple sold; in a different survey conducted by comScore their market share in the U.S. is 44.2% – by no means are they actually having trouble selling the iPhone, encrypted or not (2015). As this paper has discussed the above following subjects – what encryption actually is and why Apple is not using this incident as marketing – one can now think about the future.

The future meaning one very important aspect.Quite literally, legal precedent will indeed set the future as to the actions of Apple and if they can be compelled to create software to unlock the phone. According to Page, this precedent of using the All Writs Act of 1789 is like using “a horse and buggy at the Indianapolis 500” (2016). It is using a law that is 279 years old – a time when there were no cellphones and when the U.S.

Constitution was only one year old. That, however, is still a moot point. The government should not be able to force someone to say anything, period. That is simply common sense. This issue is not JUST a United States issue, despite it being more prevalent here than in other countries.

This is because of the fact that Apple is a U.S. company AND that it is the U.S. authorities that want access to the data. Since the argument is about encryption altogether, and not just about Apple and one iPhone, it should cover more than one case.

In the ‘90s the Canadian government wished to have unfettered access to encrypted data. This was back when encryption was not as common on consumer devices like computers and cell phones. During this ‘era,’ encryption was just gaining traction and barely at that. According to an article by Braga, Eventually the following decision was made: ‘”We all came to the conclusion that [legislation] would be the death-knell for […] secure communications online”‘ (2016). Meaning that security of communications outweighed security of anything else. These examples and cases support the fact that Apple has no motive to use this as a marketing strategy.

They have their user base, and forcing them to unlock the device and set precedent using a law that is as old as the country is not the best of ideas. Hopefully, more Americans will understand that if one does not take steps to encrypt data, it will become someone else’s data.