We live in a free country. The Bill of Rights protects our freedom. It protects us from our very own government by recognizing fundamental rights that are essential to maintain our freedom. Government agents often try to impose upon our rights in the interest of law enforcement. The people who fight to uphold the Bill of Rights are heroic freedom fighters. Tim Cook is one.
Tim Cook is the CEO of Apple, Inc. He is fighting a government order that would require Apple to create an operating system to enable the FBI to gain access to a phone that belonged to Syed Rizwan Farook, who with his wife Tashfeen Makik, shot to death 14 people and wounded 22 others in a terrorist attack in San Bernadino, California. The problem is that if Apple were to provide such an operating system (referred to as the GovtOS) then everyone’s iPhone would be open to the government. Tim cook made a difficult, but correct decision. If you agree, I appreciate your understanding of this complicated situation. If you disagree, I urge you to read the rest of this article.
First of all, it is just too easy to condemn Tim Cook’s position without really thinking about his reasoning. The most simplistic, and incomplete view of this problem is that Apple refuses to help the government hack a terrorist’s phone, simply to protect Apple’s profitability. That’s the version of this story that the government wants you to believe. That’s what President Obama is suggesting when he said “It’s fetishizing our phones above every other value.” Even further off base, presidential candidate Donald Trump said about Apple: “Who do they think they are?” He called for a boycott of the company. My response to Obama’s remark is that Cook is not fetishizing a phone, he is protecting our fundamental right to privacy. My answer to Trump is that Cook thinks he is a responsible citizen.
What is really at stake here is our privacy. We now live in the age of Golden Surveillance. In the extreme, this case could set the precedent for extraordinary invasions of our privacy. As Cook said in a recent Time article “Maybe law enforcement would like the ability to turn on the camera on your Mac.”
Tim Cook is not simply attempting to avoid the government’s request to hack Farook’s phone to preserve Apple’s business. It is much deeper than that. Cook is a hero of free society who is concerned with the bigger picture. He is thinking about civil liberties and the founding principles of this country.
So now you might ask, well, why is our privacy so sacred? Perhaps that thought arises because you are so accustomed to your privacy that you never have to defend it. But think about societies that do not have the right to privacy. The citizens of those societies are vulnerable to oppressive and abusive governments.
It’s unfortunate that there may be information on Farook’s phone that could help combat terrorism. But that is not a valid reason to force a company to create an operating system that would enable the government to invade our right to privacy.