It is impossible for any student in college to have not heard about the legal tussle between Apple and the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding gaining access into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone. Apple rightfully argued that creating a backdoor for one phone essentially made it a master key for all other iPhones to be hacked in a similar manner. After a lot of back and forth and immense defiance on Apple’s part to heed to the FBI’s demands, the FBI managed to unlock the iPhone via an outside source.
Since then, there have been other cases in which Apple has been asked to unlock iPhones. Most recently, the Feds demanded that the company help access an iPhone that was seized in a drug raid in New York.
Several companies, like Apple, understand the importance of encryption. On Tuesday, Viber rolled out end-to-end encryption as a default setting on all phones, according to Viber’s blog. After users downloaded the update, all messages sent and calls made on the app would be secured with end-to-end encryption, meaning that Viber and external third parties can’t read or listen to them.
The government and law enforcement, however, have a completely different viewpoint from companies like Apple and Viber. Following the New York case last week, the New York Police Department created a hashtag on Twitter, #UnlockJustice, as a means to oppose encryption. NYPD believes that encryption serves as an obstacle for law enforcement to deal with criminals. While it’s true that there are exceptions when encryption is a hassle, weakening encryption will not serve the greater good. What good is owning a high-tech iPhone if we cannot be guaranteed data protection?
There are several things wrong with the NYPD’s attempt to make anti-encryption notions trending. Encryption is transforming text or data into text that cannot be read by an unintended recipient. For all of us with iPhones or laptops, this means that all of the data that we store in our gadgets and apps is protected. Encryption prevents those with unwarranted access to read our private information. End-to-end encryption, furthermore, ensures strong coding, which in turn protects the common man from serious crimes like identity theft, stalking, credit card misuse and espionage. The more companies implement end-to-end encryption, the more we can be comfortable using gadgets in our day-to-day lives. When we think about the amount of personal data we share on our phones using various apps, it becomes easier to understand why supporting companies like WhatsApp is a viable option, as opposed to retweeting one of the NYPD’s tweets.
Despite of all of the developing encryption legislation and the law enforcement’s attempt to promote anti-encryption policies, companies should not be afraid to set the standard regarding data protection. There is no doubt that they will receive public support, especially now that people are aware of their rights to privacy and are certainly not afraid to voice their opinions.