Unless you are living under a rock, you have probably heard today about Apple’s CEO, Tim Cooke, refusing to give the FBI a “back door” into decrypting an iPhone used by the terrorists in San Bernardino. At first glance, one may say, “Why not give the FBI tools to investigate terrorism?” We all hate terrorism and want to the FBI to prevent future terrorist attacks. However, on further consideration, Tim Cooke is correct in fighting this request. Let me offer an analogy.
Let’s say that the FBI is tired of kicking down doors to search through terrorist’s stuff. They contact all the lock manufacturers(Schlage, Kwikset, Master Lock, etc..) and ask them to make a master key that will open any lock. The FBI promises only one agent will have access to the key and they will only use it if they have a search warrant. So the lock manufactures make the one key that will open any lock. The FBI agent puts the lock in his desk to be used next time the FBI has a warrant to search something that is locked.
One day a custodian cleaning the agent’s office finds the “master” key in the desk. Without the agent’s knowledge, the custodian makes a copy of the key. The custodian then sells the key to his criminal neighbor. The neighbor then makes one thousand copies of the key and sells it on the internet. Copies upon copies are made and then every criminal who wants a “master” key has one.
People who have trusted the locks they purchased to keep their stuff safe, are now finding that their important stuff is no longer safe. Why bother buying a lock that any criminal can easily unlock? Customers loose trust in the manufacturer of the lock. The FBI had good intentions to use the key to prevent bad things from happening. However, once the key was made it cannot be unmade.
This is what Tim Cooke is saying in his letter.
While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.