Thursday, February 25, 2016

Apple vs. the FBI: Did the FBI bite off more than they can chew?

By now, the Apple/FBI standoff over gaining access to an encrypted iPhone is no longer breaking news.  This debate will continue to rage for some time, as neither side seems willing to give in.

Both sides make compelling arguments.  The FBI is fighting for the cause of national security, and Apple is championing privacy and free speech rights.  But one side stands to lose considerably more than the other.

If Apple loses, and the courts (or lawmakers) force them to create code that will allow backdoor access into an encrypted iPhone, or allow infinite password attempts for brute force entry, then a blow will certainly have been struck against the rights of individuals (and corporations) vs. the demands of a government.  However, Apple itself won't suffer.

No one will fault Apple or stop buying iPhones if Apple loses its court battle.  The company will be seen as having fought the good fight and done what they could in the face of big government.  However, if the courts come down against the FBI and rule in favor of Apple's right to not be conscripted to create software, then the FBI (and the government by extension) will take a big public relations hit.

The FBI typically doesn't "lose."  It will not be a good look for them if that happens.  Perhaps when the attempt was first made to coerce Apple into helping the FBI beat the iPhone encryption, no one at the Federal Bureau of Investigation thought it would turn into such a big debate.  Maybe they didn't even realize what they were asking for.  There are probably still a lot of people not employed by Apple or the FBI who don't understand all that's involved in cracking the encryption.

But now that the battle lines have been drawn, if the FBI does not come out victorious, they will be seen as the losers -- government henchmen obstinately trying to shoulder their way past the Bill of Rights.  We'll have to wait and see what happens; both sides will meet in court on March 22nd.

(Image courtesy of Pixabay)

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