I’m an ex-cop myself—granted, decades ago—and I fully appreciate the need to get access to evidence. However, right now Apple sells to an elite demographic of folks typically affluent who mostly are in their 40s and up. Or, in other words, people who likely fall into the class of “not-terrorists”. That is not to say that some crime kingpins don’t use Apple phones—only that those folks aren’t the ones that the FBI is currently focused on. They are focused on folks that generally buy cheap, throw-away phones. This is to avoid tracking and likely because it is a ton cheaper, and folks that blow themselves up generally aren’t rich.
Yet we seem to be spending a ton of money—first trying to force Apple to hack its own phones and, most recently, to hire someone to break into one in what could be a repeatable process. The phone in question likely has nothing of interest on it. Even if it did, it is now so far out of date and so public that it would be worthless.
It has recently gotten so bad that—in her response to the horrid Belgium bombings—the US Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, on the Today Show seemed to argue Apple’s position was somehow at fault (granted that seemed prompted and was towards the end of the interview) even though there is no evidence that anyone in that attack owned or used an iPhone, or that gaining access to the data on their phones would have prevented anything. (She mixed up triangulation, which can be done with any phone, with data access).
(As a side note you’d think that someone that was so worried the US would spy on them she hosted her own email server while actually working for that government would get the importance of privacy. Apparently not.)
Here is the backstory on the Apple phone in question. It was one of two phones the terrorist used regularly, and it was one owned by his government employer. The other, personal phone, was physically destroyed. The government-owned phone had been backed up to Apple servers and that data was accessible. The FBI advised the local law enforcement agency that initially got control of the phone to initiate a password change on the phone, which prevented the next iPhone backup and thus prevented the FBI from gaining access to the most recent data. It is also very unlikely that a terrorist would put sensitive information on a phone that was owned by his government employer, fearing monitoring (which is a common practice and widely reported).
So we have an iPhone that is unlikely to contain information that the FBI needs, that has been secured due to an FBI mistake, which is being used as tool to open all iPhones to potential attack. Even in the extreme case, if there was data that could be used, it is now likely so out of date as to be useless.
Most recently the FBI apparently has discovered a way, using a once secret process, to break into the iPhone without Apple—something you’d think it might want to keep secret so that the few criminals that might actually use iPhones might continue to do so. But no, this is now common knowledge. So, after spending tons of money to create a hacking tool, the end result is likely only non-criminal, non-terrorist iPhone users, and idiot criminals and terrorists, will be at risk of having it used against them.
At best this effort showcases abuse of power. At worst it looks like law enforcement is run by idiots.
It would seem to me that raising the iPhone up as very secure, but secretly having a tool that could break into it would be incredibly useful to law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies. But, instead they have now showcased the iPhone as insecure (even though it may still be) and they now have a tool that supposedly can break into it—that everyone knows about including the folks they want to spy on.
US Law Enforcement has now adversely impacted demand for the iPhone, particularly internationally (for some reason folks in other countries don’t like the idea of the US spying on them) for no truly valid reason since only a small fraction of the folks they want to spy on are using iPhones, and thanks to this, that number will most certainly go down.
You’d think hurting the most valuable company in the US would be something terrorists would want to do. It seems US law enforcement wants to do that job for them. Go figure.
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