Our intelligence community needs some help from Apple to access encrypted information they believe can be secured from a cell phone recovered from one of the San Bernardino terrorists. The government believes the information may help it identify other enemies with whom the San Bernardino killers may have shared their plans. Apple argues that they are being asked to develop a “back door” soft wear program which would which would by-pass the built in security programs in their iPhones and allow the government to penetrate encryption programs now protecting the privacy of Apple’s customers. The government, arguing that the development of a soft wear by-pass is necessary for national security, and has gone to federal court and secured an court order directing Apple to comply with its request.
The government’s request, pursuant to the Order would not ordinarily be unusual if it was just seeking specific information in Apple’s hands as Apple has been cooperative in sharing information with law enforcement in the past; but here the government is demanding that Apple develop soft wear which once created could enable hackers from around the world to penetrate customers privacy now protected in Apple’s phones. Apple simply does not trust the government’s ability to protect public privacy rights now ensured by it for its iPhone customers.
Trusting collectors of personal information for the facilitating of their delivery of everyday services to their customers has proven to be a mixed blessing. More and more of us each day do our banking, pay our bills, make both major and minor purchases and even file our taxes on-line providing social security and bank account information which facilitates identity theft and other opportunities for instant credit card fraud. We have lowered our guard on whom we are willing to share bank balances with and we are more than willing to assign the right to direct debiting of personal and business bank accounts in the name of convenience. We trust personal views and information on social media with people we do not know and sign on to dating sites in the hope of meeting someone to share our lives with often finding they are not who we thought they were. We provide personal and family information on internet programs which are easily monitored by criminals and others who victimize the very young, our seniors, the lonely and even families whose death announcements are considered invitations to burglars who swoop down while the bereaved are away from home attending religious and burial services. We are often willing to trust political candidates who misrepresent what they really stand for while seeking election and give them our support even when their past records and current promises upon reflection indicate that they are appealing to our frustration and even deeper motives of which we are often not proud.
Looking for foreseeable risks of harm in our everyday lives is not a pleasant task, but it has become a necessary one as we find it more and more difficult to protect a way of life which has opened up our vulnerabilities to those who seek to bring harm to us, our families and even out nation. We do not like to think we cannot trust our governmental institutions to keep us safe, to educate our children, or even to provide safe drinking water for us. To often we simply believe what we are told by civic authorities even when our eyes, ears and common sense indicate other wise. We remain hopeful we can trust our neighbors to be reliable and dependable and not suddenly become those against whom we must build fences to protect our homes and property. We wish we didn’t have to worry that welcoming “ the tired and the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free” inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty was not an invitation to those whose goal was to render our liberty impossible to ensure. We have heard all too often in the context of those who have given of life and limb to protect us from enemies both foreign and domestic that freedom is not free. We all must at the very least share in the vigilance and common sense that is required of us in securing our nation.