There’s a lot of discussion about the battle between Apple and the FBI and the sharing of customer information. I’m a little confused about the opposition people have with the sharing of this information. I don’t know what the big deal really is. It’s not like the FBI is seeking blanket access to all data on all customers. It’s regarding a specific customer’s iPhone – the iPhone belonging to Syed Rizwan Farook (and his wife) who launched a vicious, cowardly attack in San Bernandino, California that killed 14 and wounded 21 others and could have potentially harmed dozens more if Farook and his cohort hadn’t been stopped in their tracks. FBI Director Jim Comey reportedly admonished Apple to be cooperative, saying “We could not look the survivors in the eye if we Did not follow this lead.” Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO urged the government to reconsider their demands, because if his company complied, it could set a very bad precedent. Furthermore, the FBI has a writ issued by a judge. It’s not merely an arbitrary request. That’s why I’m perplexed.
The issue I have is, as I suggested earlier, it’s not as though the government is seeking records for all customers; the information they want is targeted to that of the perpetrators. I think back to the September 11th attack, and the kind of information the government is seeking is not much different now than it was then. Once the hijackers/terrorists were identified, their phone and email records were obtained and I don’t recall anybody complaining about their civil liberties. My personal opinion is, if this information can shed light on things and help identify some possible patterns, perhaps we can try and prepare for other incidents in the future or maybe even prevent them ahead of time.
Furthermore, for all the people who complain about losing privacy, the reality is, they don’t have any privacy anymore. I can go on a few public websites and learn lots of information about anybody, and I don’t even need to know very much information to begin with. I can obtain this information legitimately without doing anything illegal or unethical. I surmise people would be very surprised to find out what information is publicly available about them. I can find out where you live, who owns the house you’re renting (the house you claim to own, by the way), any criminal or traffic offenses you may have, social networking sites associated with your name, relatives and known associates, any phone number and email affiliated with you (past or present), the name of your cell phone carrier, and a host of other things. Information is out there.
No, I’m not an eternal snoop, and I don’t sit around looking up people just for kicks. But people need to realize that privacy doesn’t exist anymore. We’re well beyond what George Orwell envisioned in his book, 1984, or the type of technological snooping we saw in the movie Enemy of the State. The internet is the information highway, and it’s probably honorable the government is doing the right thing by going to Apple for the information, when we know they really don’t have to do it that way.