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Apple, Your Argument Has Suddenly Become Lame February 25, 2016

Posted by Peter Varhol in Software platforms, Technology and Culture.

Like many, I tend to lean toward the side of Apple in its current travails with the Federal constabulary in cracking a singular iPhone with an eye toward getting information on terrorist networks, in the US and beyond. But your latest legal move has changed my mind.  Let me tell you why.

On the surface, this seems to be a relatively innocuous request to help find out who a terrorist was in contact with. That is a reasonable goal.  But I appreciate Apple’s argument.  Once you let the camel poke his nose into the tent, the rest of the camel will inevitably follow.  That is not meant as disparagement against anyone; rather, it means that once you open a door to a relatively minor exception, that makes larger exceptions inevitable.  And that is true.

And I strongly believe that our law enforcement authorities have become lazy. Sure, there in fact may be information available on many cell phone calls.  Why should I do real police work when I can issue warrants to tech companies?  But instead they are using this as an excuse to not do real police work, the kind of legwork and research for which our constabulary should be justifiably proud in the past.  As a principle, what our constabulary is doing is wrong.

But in legal filings, Apple is now arguing that they are being required to write code to comply with this court order. With that argument, I call bullshit.  Yes, Apple does have to write some code in order to deliver on the search warrant.  Is it a hardship?  Heck (hell) no.  Is it wrong?  I’m sorry, witnesses and even jury members make some significant sacrifices to support what is (mostly) a fair and honest legal system.  Why can’t Apple?  No, why won’t Apple?

A confession. I don’t necessarily have information on all of the technical nuances.  But with the filing that I cite, I don’t think that matters.

I fully realize that this is a legal argument that is relatively divorced from the larger issues within our Constitution. But I’m sorry, if Tim Cook stands in principle for anything at all, he should never have let this argument be advanced in court filings.  You either stand on principle, or you weasel-worm.  Tim Cook and Apple are now weasel-worming.  I don’t like it, and I don’t think they have to.

At this point, I have to strongly disapprove of Apple. And it brought it on itself.


Update:  On the other hand . . .

But Comey insists that there are no broad implications of the FBI’s request. It is simply trying to get into this one particular iPhone. But he said the FBI believes that hypothetical scenario to be an unreasonable argument against Apple’s cooperation.

“What if Apple engineers get kidnapped?” Comey asked rhetorically.

I had to certify that I didn’t use illegal drugs before joining the Air Force. I would have thought that the same requirement applied to the head of the FBI.



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