The recent firestorm around Apple's refusal to help the FBI crack the iPhone belonging to San Bernardino terrorists has certainly raised several questions. Not only about personal privacy and our government's access to our private data, but also about a company's role in protecting that data. For me however, it has raised a different set of questions, mainly the question of why we would trust a multi-national, billion dollar company over our own government that is sworn to protects its citizens.
I've long followed the case and leaked information Edward Snowden has provided the public with. Especially the disclosure of several NSA projects and programs that have for years used several high profile tech companies to conduct surveillance on 'everyday citizens'.
While I do believe there are plenty of nefarious projects out there, and that the government has been increasingly guilty of over-reach the question in my mind that has always remained was how much is it the government and how much is it the tech companies themselves or even the citizens. After-all, we are so willing to give up this information. Why wouldn't they want to take it?
So we now fast forward to Apple's most recent defiance of a court order that is meant to compel them to help the FBI access data on a locked iPhone. The question that is raised, is should Apple work with the FBI to bypass the locks that are in place and if they do, should those tools then be given to law enforcement agencies to use. We won't talk about whether or not Apple can/can't actually achieve this!
This brings me to my question: When did the notion that our government has somehow become a great evil become so entrenched in our brains that we are so blindly willingly to hand over all controls of our data to a company like Apple? Why are so many willingly to believe that they are actually going to act in our best interests over their own?
How is it that we are so willing to allow major corporations with no
accountability complete and unfettered access to every aspect of our
days lives and total control over our privacy yet we worry so much about
our government, with a great deal of accountability and restriction,
wanting to access even the most minor of details?
This is after-all a company that has the ability to act with an unfathomable level of impunity. They are shielded behind a TOS, which most users barely understand. We by all rights hand these companies that door, the lock and the key. Yet we scoff at the government when they act within the full letter of the law to attempt to gain access to any portion of that data.
Why is it that we are so willing to allow major corporations with no accountability complete and unfettered access to every aspect of our days lives and total control over our privacy yet we worry so much about our own government? A government that has to act within the scope of the law and has a great deal of accountability and restriction!
Have we come so far from the days of seeking government oversight, consumer protections, the break ups of monopolies and 'robber barons' that we are now fearing the very entity that we once embraced to save us from these 'Orwellian Giants'? Do we really truly want the keys to the kingdom to reside solely in the hands of corporations that only see the bottom line?
Personally I think not! I think we should really take a good hard look at these companies, especially the ones that want to proclaim themselves above the letter of the law and 'protectors' of overreach by the government. Now this shouldn't mean to say I think the government should have unfettered access to things like encryption keys, user data, or any sort of 'backdoor' programs. In fact the opposite is true! I think our government should be held to even higher scrutiny and standards than it is today. That doesn't mean we should not then scrutinize companies and their motives as well.