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Friday, September 24, 2021

Opinion

We have a right to our privacy


Have you ever lost your phone? Immediately, a wave of panic sweeps over your body. Thoughts racing, you desperately retrace your steps in hopes of stumbling upon it. Your whole life is in that device, and it is hard to imagine what might happen if it landed in the wrong hands.

In times like these, it’s easy to see how much we value our privacy.

Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook released a public service announcement highlighting a recent request his company received from a federal judge per the FBI.

“The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers,” Cook said in the announcement. “We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.”

The FBI is trying to expedite the investigation of the San Bernardino, Calif. shooting last December. Perpetrators Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik stormed a company holiday party and proceeded to kill 14 people and seriously injure 22 more.

The bureau is requesting that Apple develop software that would essentially provide a “backdoor” to any iPhone in the world. Apple realizes the severity of the issue at hand but is not willing to compromise the security of their customers’ personal information to provide assistance.

The software giant has helped law enforcement access the mobile devices of various criminals in the past, but never to this magnitude. You can imagine the concerns the request raises.

If software such as this has not yet been developed you can imagine that it is probably for good reason. Imagine the repercussions if it wound up in the wrong hands. People with the worst intentions could access bank statements, passwords, personal messages and more.

This request puts more than our privacy in jeopardy — consider our Constitutional rights.

“If Apple is made to develop such technology, it would signify a diversion in the Constitutional rights of citizens to privacy,” assistant professor of communications Lindita Camaj said. “It would infringe the limits posed by the Constitution and the nation’s laws on how investigators and prosecutors can collect evidence.”

Sure, the FBI may start by using the new software only for this case – they have the best intentions – but this will inevitably create a slippery slope. What starts as only accessing one iPhone can turn into all of them. The United States has a justice system built on precedent, and this intrusive new method of investigation could become a norm.

“This would set a new precedent and potentially undo the current strive against mass surveillance,” Camaj said. “Further, such a law would make citizens far less secure against potential harm that a  data breach can cause if such software got into the wrong hands.”

I can’t fathom how difficult it must be for the family members of the San Bernardino victims. Filled with grief, they now have to watch a corporate giant refuse to provide further aid in the investigation related to the slaying of their loved ones.

We must put emotion aside and see the bigger picture here. There is simply too much at risk in this situation.

Terrorism is a serious issue, and like Apple, I have no sympathy for the individuals who commit these unspeakable acts. That being said, it is important to preserve our Constitutional rights at any cost. Unveiling the motives of two terrorists is not worth the risk of jeopardizing the personal privacy and safety of all other iPhone users.

Opinion columnist Reagan Earnst is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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