We have a right to our privacy

Embed from Getty Images

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]


  • With rights come duties. The duties to exercise them not selfishly but for the betterment of others. The founders did not expect that our rights to privacy were to be had at the expense of national security. What if you were harboring a terrorist in your home? Would you expect the government,who are sworn to protect you and your neighbors from harm, to overlook the terrorist to protect your privacy? If a plastic piece of technology is more cherished than human life that I would strongly suggest you re-examine your priorities. Phones are replaceable; people, not so much. No phone is worth so high a price that it may be bartered for human life. And one’s “privacy” is not so grand a virtue when he ought guard it to the destruction of his fellows.

  • I support Apple in this case … the government is admitting that they don’t know what they are doing.

    If they wanted, the FBI could give the phone to Apple and the company would tell them everything they wanted.
    But the government wants the key to the castle … they want Apples code to circumvent entry to the phone.

    Apple has advertised security for their phone, and they mean it. I now feel a lot safer with my iPhone.

    San Bernadino County owned the phone in question … and their failure to manage the device (Mobile Device Management) is just another blunder in SocDem government. MDD is a legal backdoor to getting the contents of the phone.

    Somebody needs to stand up to oppressive government … and Apple is plowing the way.

Leave a Comment