Personal privacy has become a hot and controversial issue. Like many people, I like my privacy and believe that I have a right to protect my private affairs from the prying eyes of the government or anyone else. At the same time, I recognize that sometimes law enforcement needs to be able to access someone’s private affairs in order catch a criminal. It’s the balance between the two that makes the issue so controversial.
In saying that, there are two types of criminals that I am all for being caught by law enforcement – terrorists and sexual predators, especially those that prey on children. In that aspect, I tend to favor the legal rights and ability of law enforcement to gain access to private affairs such as computers and cell phones. Many a sexual predator and pedophile have been caught and locked up using these tools.
That brings me to take a look at Apple’s new iOS 8 mobile operating system. Apple CEO Tim Cook describes just how important they take protecting your mobile communication:
“At Apple, your trust means everything to us. That’s why we respect your privacy and protect it with strong encryption, plus strict policies that govern how all data is handled.”
“Security and privacy are fundamental to the design of all our hardware, software, and services, including iCloud and new services like Apple Pay. And we continue to make improvements. Two-step verification, which we encourage all our customers to use, in addition to protecting your Apple ID account information, now also protects all of the data you store and keep up to date with iCloud.”…
“Finally, I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.”
“Our commitment to protecting your privacy comes from a deep respect for our customers. We know that your trust doesn’t come easy. That’s why we have and always will work as hard as we can to earn and keep it.”
While this sounds great for Apple users, especially in today’s world where foreign hackers have been breaking into the secured systems of a number of companies and stealing millions of credit card numbers and personal information, there is also a down side to Apple’s new super secure system that has some law enforcement officials concerned. With their new double encryption system, it’s extremely difficult for law enforcement to access information on the new iOS 8 system without the owner providing the passwords, even when a legal warrant has been obtained.
Listen to what some top law enforcement officials are saying about Apple’s system:
“There will come a day when it will matter a great deal to the lives of people . . . that we will be able to gain access. I want to have that conversation [with companies responsible] before that day comes.” – James B. Comey, Director of the FBI.
“I’ve been an investigator for almost 27 years. It’s concerning that we’re beginning to go backwards with this technology.” – Brian Collins, Police Detective for the Los Angeles Police Department.
“Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile. The average pedophile at this point is probably thinking, I’ve got to get an Apple phone.” – John J. Escalante, Chief of Detectives for Chicago’s Police Department.
Escalante pointed out that the murder of a retired officer was solved with the help of recovering information and photos off of a smart phone. Had the criminals involved been using Apple’s new securer system, they may not have been able to obtain the evidence they needed to solve the case.
Sexual predators and pedophiles will be able to use their Apple phones in the commission of their perverted crimes knowing that it will be much harder for police to gain access to that information. They’ll be able to take photos and even store them in iCloud where it will be extremely difficult for anyone else to access. They’ll be able to revisit those photos of your son, daughter, grandson or granddaughter anytime they want and even share them with others and feel secure doing so.
So I ask where is the tradeoff between the rights to privacy and the need for law enforcement to track down murders, terrorists, pedophiles and other sexual predators. I’m not sure I have the answer and I know that people from both sides will respond and the conversation could get heated at time, someone has to ask the question. Chances are this will be debated for years to come.