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Technology vs the Law

Technology vs the law was on high display when Apple refused the F.B.I. demand to unlock the iPhone belonging to the perpetrators of the San Bernardino shooting. Does Apple have to comply under law?

Using conventional law in the 20th century, yes. Unlocking the iphone would be no different than a bank unlocking a safety deposit box at a bank.  If the police have probable cause and obtain a warrant, they may request and get access your bank deposit box.  In this case the phone would be the same process.  If the police produced a warrant for the phone, technically the tech person from Apple can be subpoenaed  to open the phone –just like the bank is forced to open your safety deposit box.

So what’s changed? Why has this been such a battle pitting Apple against the F.B.I.?

Obviously in the San Bernardino case probable cause exists.  On December 2, 2015, 14 people were killed and 22 were seriously injured when Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married couple living in the city of Redlands, targeted a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health training event and Christmas party with about 80 employees. The terrorist attack stunned the country and threw the Apple-F.B.I. tug-o-war into the limelight.

Technology Vs the Law

Farook was an American-born U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, who worked as a health department employee, and Malik was a Pakistani-born lawful permanent resident of the United States, thus, they have rights in a free and open democracy.

What would seem like a no-brainer legal action has become less so. With privacy now under the Patriot Act (passed during the presidency of G.W. Bush, post 9/11) the definition of due process and probable cause have not only changed but, the process of getting a warrant is no longer public; this complicates technology and privacy even further.

The Patriot Act and it’s secretive nature aside, one other significant difference between Apple and a bank is that if Apple provided the unlock code for the iPhone requested, it is suspected that the government could open “any” iPhone; whereas a bank is opening one safe deposit box, not providing a key to every box.

Because of this I’m quite sure that Apple will stand their ground, while the government grapples with this new 21st Century dilemma.




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