Google and Apple’s respective CEOs have joined forces over the issue of customer privacy, with Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly refusing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ‘backdoor’ access to iPhone software.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai backed Apple’s decision on Twitter, arguing that assisting the FBI to gain such access to a private individual’s smartphone would be a ’troubling precedent.’
The mobile phone privacy dispute with the FBI over encryption comes 2 months after Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people in a mass shooting in San Bernadino, California, with investigators demanding that Apple now assist the authorities in accessing Farook Malik’s iPhone 5C.
Both Apple and Google argue that ‘backdoor’ decryption would put the privacy of millions of ordinary smartphone users at risk from Government intrusion, with Tim Cook famously arguing that ‘You can’t have a back door that’s only for the good guys’. In theory, each iPhone’s encryption method is unique, and Apple argue that there should be no possible method for accessing a given user’s data.
On Tuesday however a Federal Judge ordered Apple to disable Farook Malik’s suspected phone setting which enforces usage delays or wipes the iPhone in the event of multiple incorrect password attempts, giving the FBI the opportunity to automatically test millions of possible passwords without penalty.
Both companies’ actions are being driven by the issue of reputation: giving law enforcement authorities the ability to access an individual’s data would utterly undermine smartphone manufacturers’ advertisement of user security.
With neither side willing to back down, expect the dispute to go to the courts, with the key issue being whether Apple can control permitted access to this iPhone, and this iPhone only.
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