It does not take much effort to make a legal case interesting and popular. Just add the name ‘Apple’ to it.
You’d recall, in a recent case against Apple, the FBI had demanded Apple provide a backdoor to all encryption. FBI’s Director, James Comey who is clearly in favour to backdoor encryption, now says (and believes) that it can be done “without disregarding safety”.
The administration as well as the Congress decided to go against the move and thus Apple was able to ward off the pressure of being forced to unlock and decrypt the iPhone.
But, Apple is yet to explain why decrypting iPhones is “unduly burdensome”.
Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York wants to bring forth the issue of privacy against law enforcement in the domain of debate.
But the judiciary is divided.
“He’s clearly a judge who is interested in opening topics to discussion in the judiciary, but he also thinks the larger public should know about the debate” said Brian Owsley, a former Magistrate Judge in Texas who had issued rulings that heightened privacy protections for the government’s use of cellphone-tracking devices.
The presiding Judge in the case, Judge Gabriel Gorenstein, who’s dealt with a case resembling the current situation (in 2005), is challenging Comey’s desire to use the 1789 All Writs Act so as to emerge victorious in 2015 encryption issue.
Despite such support, Apple is still having a hard time dealing with law enforcement agencies as they are unconvinced with Apple’s plea regarding the inviolability of the iPhone’s security.
The company has gone on record, saying that it literally has no way of getting a hold of the encryption key which is required to access a user’s data.
“If the government laid a subpoena on us to get your iMessages, we can’t provide it. It’s encrypted and we don’t have the key”.
Despite this and other logical arguments, including the right to privacy, FBI’s James Comey continues to maintain his opposition
“The notion that we would market devices that would allow someone to place themselves beyond the law, troubles me a lot. As a country, I don’t know why we would want to put people beyond the law”.
Accusations, arguments are being thrown back and forth. Manhattan’s District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr, suggested that the iPhone would soon be “the terrorists’ communication device of choice”, underlining the danger of the infallible security features like iPhone encryption.
Apple, on the other hand, tries to elucidate the danger of sacrificing such features. Building in a backdoor would mean making it vulnerable to cyber attacks.
The NY Times said it best,
“The Obama administration has backed down in its bitter dispute with Silicon Valley over the encryption of data on iPhones and other digital devices, concluding that it is not possible to give American law enforcement and intelligence agencies access to that information without also creating an opening that China, Russia, cybercriminals and terrorists could exploit”.
All that said and done, if one takes an impartial view of the matter, both sides are correct in their own right – there’s need of privacy, and there’s the threat of mal intent. And America of all countries of the world, faces the maximum acts borne of that malice, year after year.
So while I can’t pretend I don’t see the chance of misuse of backdoors, I (like the rest of the world, including Apple and the FBI) also can’t see a viable middle path – one that I can think of being used conscionably. Oh, NSA, what have you done?!