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February 19, 2016

Granting Government 'Mandates' To Unlock iPhones Opens 'Pandora's Box,' Shapiro Says in Apple's Defense

IPI expert referenced: Tom Giovanetti | In The News | Media Hit
  Consumer Electronics Daily

CTA sides with Apple in its refusal to comply with a court order requiring the company to help the FBI unlock an iPhone 5c used by one of the attackers in the Dec. 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California (see 1602170068), CTA said in a Thursday statement, making it the second major tech association to weigh in on the controversy. On Wednesday, the Information Technology Industry Council released a statement expressing "worry about the broader implications both here and abroad of requiring technology companies to cooperate with governments to disable security features, or introduce security vulnerabilities into technologies."

"Government should not mandate that technology companies weaken security that has been developed to protect consumers, even when investigating crimes," said CTA President Gary Shapiro. "Granting government such power could open a Pandora's Box, setting a troubling precedent and weakening security standards that could be exploited by the very people the government seeks to protect our citizens from terrorists, hackers and foreign governments." Shapiro said CTA and the entire tech industry "stand united with the global community as we decry criminal and terrorist acts." CTA member companies "work tirelessly to help deter crime and fight terrorism by cooperating with law enforcement officials, building and continually enhancing security into their products, and processing legal orders and requests for content and information," Shapiro said.

But with technology "changing the ways we live our lives and contributing exponentially to our economy, consumers have come to rely on the security protections included in the devices and services they use every day for work, connection and entertainment," Shapiro said. It's therefore "imperative" for the U.S. government to "prioritize citizens' right to privacy as the amount of data we create, share and collect grows rapidly," he said. "Consumers should be able to trust that their personal data is legally protected, whether it's stored or transmitted online or in their possession. That trust allows for continued innovation, which leads to economic growth and societal benefits." The tech industry "remains committed to providing law enforcement with user data in response to legal orders," Shapiro said. "But mandating a weakening of security standards will create vulnerabilities that could hurt all consumers and stifle innovation."

Apple landed another advocate Thursday when the Progressive Policy Institute released a statement saying the court's demand that Apple weaken encryption for its iPhones "gives us pause." For many Americans, "it may seem intuitively obvious that law enforcement should be able to 'unlock' a dead terrorists' cellphone," said PPI President Will Marshall. "But weaker encryption wouldn't just apply to terrorists and criminals; it would jeopardize the privacy of any American with a smart phone."

The Institute for Policy Innovation also took Apple's side. "It's a sad state of affairs when Americans have to rely on private companies to protect our constitutional rights against the government, but apparently that's where we are," said President Tom Giovanetti in a Thursday blog post. "That's why I commend Tim Cook of Apple for his strong statement opposing the FBI's overly broad demand for the creation of a tool that would allow them to break encryption on any iPhone in the world," Giovanetti said of the Apple CEO.

Many major newspapers, including the Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News, New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal had not addressed the controversy in their editorial pages as of Thursday. Not so for Apple's hometown papers, the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle, both of which came down firmly in Apple's corner. "The need to gather information about terrorists is undisputed," said an editorial in the Mercury News Wednesday. "But there are dangerous precedents at work here, with Americans' basic privacy rights at stake -- as well as national security: If Apple and other tech companies work with our government to get at private information, how can they resist requests from China, Russia and other countries where they do business?" The Chronicle made nearly identical arguments in a Wednesday editorial headlined, "Apple vs. the FBI: Encryption must be protected."

But not all papers saw the controversy Apple's way. Apple "may have a point" when it vows to resist the U.S. government's "overreach," said a Thursday editorial in the New York Post. "But try explaining to the victims' families why you're determined to protect a terrorist's secrets." It urged Congress to "clear up" the intent of the law that the government cited as the basis for forcing Apple to comply with the court order. An online editorial Wednesday in Newsday was even more sharply critical of Apple's decision to refuse to comply with the court order. Though Apple's concerns about potential government overreach are "understandable," Newsday said, "this case is a clear example of the overriding need to keep the nation safe." Though the online version of the editorial Wednesday bore a headline suggesting only that Apple is "wrong" to fight the FBI on unlocking the terrorist's iPhone, Thursday morning hardcopy editions of the paper carried the same editorial with a more provocative headline: "Apple, take head out of the cloud."


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