The battle lines are clear: the FBI is using the courts to try to force Apple to write malware that will provide a backdoor into the iPhone the Feds recovered at the recent San Bernardino terrorist shootings – but Apple is fighting the order tooth and nail, as such malware would weaken privacy protections for all Apple customers.
While we as American citizens all sympathize with the FBI’s desire to investigate such an attack, we are also understandably reluctant to allow our government to have the power to spy on us. But regardless of where you stand on this controversy, there is an aspect of this story that enterprises must understand.
As consumers, when we interact with a large company, we usually expect that company to control all the data regarding our relationship with it. Our credit card companies know how we use our cards – the vendors we frequent, what we purchase, and how much we spend. Our airlines know our itineraries, and nothing we do on their web sites or in their mobile apps is secret from them.
When law enforcement has a bona fide reason to request such information from a company, and goes through the due process necessary to ensure our constitutional rights, we generally have few qualms about the company providing such information.
After all, we’ve all watched enough cop dramas to know the police routinely access credit card, phone, and airline records in the course of their investigations – and as long as they confine their efforts to the bad guys, we’re mostly OK with their techniques.
The situation that Apple finds itself in this time, however, is quite different from those routine law enforcement requests of big companies. In this case, the encryption-based privacy capabilities of the iPhone are an integral part of the products that Apple sells to its customers. And an essential characteristic of those products is the fact that even Apple itself doesn’t know – and furthermore, doesn’t have the ability to know – what data customers have in the private areas of their iPhones.
Intellyx advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. Image credit: Henry Burrows.