Should Apple Let The Government In?

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:

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

0 thoughts on “Should Apple Let The Government In?

  1. first of all – the fbi said that after the police took the phone – someone in police dept changed the password – thus fbi screwed up on their end – if they had left the phone alone and handed it over to fbi without touching anything then apple could probably have gotten into it – why someone changed the password before fbi got it is unknown – were they trying to hack the phone – who knows

  2. also the 2 killers threw all the computer harddrives into a small lake in san bernardino – dont know if phone was thrown there too – seems as if fbi shd have phone records to find out who they called even if foreign – they did go back later and go thru shooter’s brother apt and arrested his brother

  3. Apple should without doubt assist the FBI. Unauthorized data collection is a separate matter altogether. I assume the Apple executives all travel on aircraft not subject to security checks too?

  4. According to Marco Rubio the iPhone was not owned or used by any of the killers, but by one of the victims.
    I hope this situation will resolve itself without compromising Apple’s valiant attempt to keep its customers safe if there is a way to do that.

  5. Absolutely, Apple should provide access to the phone. If they do not, Tim Cook should be arrested for obstruction, prosecuted, and jailed. I strongly dislike government intrusion, e.g., all the medical prying on my income tax forms, however, this service might or might not prevent the loss of more lives but I want to be certain.

  6. NO! This will NOT set a precedent at all, this is a phone that was used by the FEMALE SHOOTER!
    YES! Apple is OBLIGATED, AT LEAST MORALLY, on the reasonings of National Security! It can be argued that possibly the information could lead to others who are planning future attacks, if not directly, possibly through a chain of command!
    YES! Apple should be held in at least “CONTEMPT OF COURT” for this violation of a Court Order!
    ALSO! Any action can be SEALED BY THE COURTS so that the public doesn’t know of what or how or if the phones is accessed!

  7. Apple needs to drop the pretenses and unlock the fone. Terrorists have no rights PERIOD. If they refuse to do this then they are abetting terrorism and should be treated accordingly.

  8. I also can understand the issue of privacy, and freedom, however, this is a case that goes beyond that. There are matters that from already existing evidence, point towards a larger group, very likely with many potential targets in our country and even neighboring Canada… We can’t fight the war against terrorists if we do not know which ones are right in our own backyards, and if the info in the phone has leads that track to others like the two that were responsible for these heinous actions, then all measures need to be made available to trace them down and at least keep them from having the opportunity to take more innocent lives.

  9. I believe that Apple should hack the phone then give it to the FBI without telling them how the phone was hacked. The FBI is not asking for information on HOW to hack PHONES, just asking Apple to hack one in particular.

  10. I agree with Mr. Jackson. Apple should unlock the phone with FBI investigator present but unable to view how the phone is unlocked. Only to make sure phone is not damaged beyond repair. Many lives may depend on contents of the particular phone in question.

  11. Shame on Apple! This is a matter of concern for everyone’s safety and security. There should be case by case review for individual devices owned by murderers, rapists and terrorists. I don’t see how anyone could object to that.

  12. Apple should do this for the FBI. If they do not they should be charged with aiding the terrorists. Apple is trying to make this an issue about creating a backdoor to all their phones when the issue is just opening up this one specific phone.

  13. If it were their loved ones killed or hurt I bet they would not be against unlocking that phone. I say if your doing nothing wrong you have nothing to hide. Unlock the phone apple an I am a apple owner so just do it our nations safety is 1st and 4 most keeping people safe is the USA’s 1st job and they need the information off the phone to do what they can to reduce any more pain in familys an loved ones lives. Serious Apple if it was their family members hurt that day or in one of the killers line of sight they would be giving it up with no problems but untill it is they are going to try and stand on that ground protecting their rights and without our nations help and without our nations land they wouldnt have their countrys safety and without our land they wouldnt have a place to make their billions on iPhone sells. so apple should think about what their refusing to do. The only thing to do is the right thing unlock the phone for the FBI so they can retreave the information they want and let them keep protecting our country! and as for the comments about the FBI locking the phone and all that mess unless you were their you don’t know so all the canadates are saying this and that it’s smoke being blown up your skirt and those canadates werent their that day so they don’t know anything about it. that is like scool yard nonsense and it’s subtracting focous from the point of what apple should do and keep refusing to do I say if they don’t want to help the FBI protect our nations land where they make allot of money selling their items let’s stop buying their products and send them packing untill they do the right thing. Unlock the phone for the FBI.

  14. I am in agreement with the right to privacy but since when does a right to privacy take precedent over national security and peoples lives. Apple needs to reexamine its stance. Common sense needs to prevail here.

    Hey they have the technology to run softwre for this reason and design it to blow up if you will, when completing its task. Hello! Mission impossible!
    You get my point right

  16. I think Apple is caught between a rock and hard spot. I don’t want the government especially the police the authority to invade my privacy whenever they want. They can get a court order for anything. Although it would be nice to know about terrorist. ! I think it would be better to keep the government out!!!!

  17. Apple is absolutely wrong. What’s more important the innocent lives, & who knows what else, of thousands or the so called “privacy rights”. What are they trying to hide?? We know Terrorists ARE hiding something really devilish. Wake Up.!!!

  18. I stand by Apple no matter what. We don’t pay all that money just so the government can get into our private lives.

  19. I think that Apple should be willing to come to some agreement, compromise or at least state their requirements to cooperate with the Govt. authorities to unlock the phone in question. Nothing should be absolute as Darryl and Cheryl above expressed and I agree with them. It is a most unfortunate situation.

  20. I believe by not giving access to the data, the proper authorities cannot look at other possible terrorists (cohorts) that may be planning threats. And by holding back may have already let those that may be guilty of plotting already escape. It may already be too late. Apple could open the phone without giving software to anyone. If anyone had the possible opportunity to save a live they should be held accountable if they didn’t do all that is possible. Maybe we should ask the families of victims?

  21. Whatever the reason Apple is within its rights to contest the government. They are refusing on the lowest level of legality. They will abide by the law when the highest court of the land says they should and not be legally responsible for invading the publics privacy. I have nothing to hide but I do not want you walking through my house just because you think some criminal visited and left something in it. I will look and let you know.

  22. Don’t these two people have parents or siblings who will inherit their things? Then why can’t the primary person receiving their things give permission to the FBI to get the phone unlocked?
    Didn’t Apple offer to unlock the phone for the FBI without revealing the HOW? Or could a techi backtrace it to the coding required to get the password? Can’t they turn off the “wipe” feature on this phone only?
    Has Apple thought about the bad publicity if others are at risk and/or they could have been shown, and the people warned and protected? What will the beloved stock market do show then? A quick dive in Apple stock?
    There comes a time, perhaps in after death caused by a terrorist attack, when privacy should be void.

  23. Apple seems to be doing what a lot of companies do today. They take an individual instance of something and extend it to everyone or everything. The FBI has not asked for a back donor into all iPhones but rather for Apple to unlock one phone so Apple: take the phone, unlock it, and give it back to the FBI and get off thie making a mountain out of a mole hill!

  24. I was reading the comments on another tech newsletter (CNET)that I get and some of the comments on it were just as eye opening as on here. One reader according to the government it’s not just one IPhone now but 175 phones. Another reader said that it would open a floodgate of possible search warrants for more then just IPhones. That person said “The police wants to search the inside my house just because a crook ran through it” No matter what the outcome this will be a slippery slope.

  25. I hope that there is no way for anyone, Apple or Law Enforcement, to override a user-generated password because if there is, what’s gonna keep hackers from learning how to do it too and then the user-generated password is useless! Then if the officials can do it, anyone can do it and there is no privacy left.

    While I agree with the need for LEOs to look at the perp’s phones for clues to accomplices and other possible crimes, it scares me to think that our passwords offer little or no safety from anyone tech-smart enough to know how to use such a backdoor.

    If a backdoor exists, the fewer people who know about it the better. The term National Security is way overused to allow just anyone to snoop in our personal business. My personal life is personal and is no one’s business except mine provided I don’t do anything illegal.

  26. According to Apple they are being ordered to create something that doesn’t exist (software to break into a phone) . Think about that, the court is ordering them to make something that doesn’t exist. This sounds a lot like when Obama ordered everyone to buy medical insurance. Being order to buy something. Think about that. Dictatorship. If Apple already had a way to get this information out than I would say they should, for national security. But when you have a court ordering you to build something.then we need to look at what misuse of power the government is doing. Apple has a lot at stake on this, their products are all over the world. People depend on the security of the information that is on their products and once that trust has been removed that could bring down another company so imagine the amount of people that would put out of work. More people looking for jobs all for the possibility of some helpful terrorist information. I say if the NSA can’t get into it then we should move on. The government had plenty of Intel on 911 but didn’t act on it. But I must say since then I feel that what improvements they have made are working but there comes a time when you just have to say, let this one go.

  27. I absolutely agree. If Apple is successful, every ISIS member will be buying an Apple phone. (Perhaps that is what Apple has in mind – profits over everything else)

  28. I had read this past week on MSN now the DOJ is using that same old law with another Apple phone. In this case the phone supposedly belong to a drug dealer ( whether that’s true or not I do not know) in State of New York. Where does it end will the government keep using out dated laws to get there way? What we need is some common sense now days.

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