A reader posed an interesting question about privacy: “My question is different then your normal question. I’m curious as to how you and your readers feel about a federal judge ordering Apple to help the FBI to heck into the San Bernardino shooter’a IPhone? Personally I think if Apple could help the FBI hack into the phone WITH A ONE ONLY time code then they should do it but I know that is impossible.”


It’s a very timely question in light of current events. If you aren’t familiar with this case. The FBI wants to get into an iPhone owned by one of the shooters in the San Bernadino terrorist attack. There were 14 people killed an 22 injured in the shooting and attempted bombing.   Both terrorists were killed by police and both seemed to boast about involvement on social media. So it doesn’t really seem as if there’s any question of guilt in this case.


Apple’s stance is that if the government wants the information, they need to get a warrant. (By the way that’s pretty much every major tech company’s stance including Microsoft and Google.)

The FBI did that, so they can legally look at the data on the phone. However, the phone is locked by a user-generated passcode. If you make more than 10 unsuccessful attempts to get into a phone, the phone and its data will be wiped.

A judge ordered Apple to help the FBI circumvent the security protocols and help the FBI get into the phone. Apple has refused to help.

They say doing this once would set a dangerous precedent that would give the government a backdoor into everyone’s cellphone. The judge in the case says that this is a one-time only order directed at this particular case only and doesn’t set a precedent, but Apple fears otherwise.

They say doing this once, could mean that the government can force them to build a backdoor into all of their products that officials could access at any time.

In a statement, Apple wrote: “We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications. While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”

You can read the full text of the statement here:  http://www.apple.com/customer-letter/

My opinion is that I value the right to privacy. But I’m troubled that Apple leave absolutely no option for law enforcement to lawfully obtain information from the phone of a known terrorist.

You have a right to privacy in your home, but if you’re running a meth lab in there or holding people prisoner in your basement, authorities have the right to bust down the door and some in. If I was your landlord and there were screams coming from the basement, I think I might unlock the door and let the cops in just this one time.

What I would like to hear from Apple is their solution on how law enforcement can legally obtain information in cases of terrorism where the perpetrators use an iPhone? What if there were information about a kidnapped child on that phone? Would it be okay then? Under some circumstances even priests are allowed to break the seal of confession. So what about Apple?

I personally would like to see them judge this instance on its own merit and open the phone for the FBI without a court order. I generally dislike zero-tolerance policies.

What do you think the solution is? Let us know in the comments.

~ Cynthia