On Wednesday, December 2,2015 around 11 a.m., a mass shooting took place in San Bernadino, California at a state-run facility. The shooting occurred during a holiday party at the Inland Regional Medical Center. There were fourteen casualties and twenty-two injured; most of the victims were county workers. Later that day reports were issued stating the police were in pursuit of a black SUV that had fled the scene. Police confirmed that Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, operators of the SUV, were killed by police fire.
Farook was employed by the Inland Regional Medical Center. According to witnesses, he arrived to the party and left shortly after following a dispute with a fellow worker. He and his wife returned ten to twenty minutes later, unleashing gunfire. After searching Farook and Malik’s home, police found tactical gear, twelve pipe-bombs, and other weapons. The FBI currently believe that Farook had been radicalized and in contact with a Jihadist group in the area.
The FBI has requested assistance from tech-giant, Apple, Inc., to help unlock the suspect’s iPhone, which they believe may have valuable information concerning the case. In fact, a court order has been issued by US Judge Sherri Pym, using the All Writs Act of 1789 as her justification, for Apple to provide a “backdoor” route to cracking the encryption on Farook’s work-issued iPhone. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, has provided data and even manpower in the form of engineers to advise the FBI team, however he refuses to submit to the government’s request that Apple create a new version of the iPhone operating system, which would bypass several security features, and possibly threaten the privacy of all Apple users.
In Cook’s open letter to Apple customers, he makes this statement: “We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone…. The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”
In a simple world, the answers would of course be simple. However, should Apple adhere to the court order, a Pandora’s box could potentially be opened. This system that Apple is being asked to create would essentially be a master key with the ability to open millions of locks. That may seem insignificant, but we’re talking about accounts, businesses, restaurants, banks, and health information that would be available to anyone who could copy the technique the FBI is forcing Apple to develop. Apple is a company known for the security measures it takes to ensure its customer’s privacy; this would destroy their reputation. While Bill Gates may not fully agree with Tim Cook and his stand for the preservation of Americans’ personal information, others, such as Mark Cuban and Jack Dorsey, are supporting the Apple CEO’s decision.