Apple's dilemma

By Heather Clancy and Adam Lashinsky
March 21, 2016

I’ve found it difficult lately to pay attention to every turn of the screw at Apple, which is expected to launch a new wave of iPhones on Monday and will appear in a Riverside, Calif., federal court Tuesday to continue its battle with the FBI.

If, like me, you could use a primer on what’s going with the latter subject, I highly recommend Lev Grossman’s long article in Time, pegged to his recent interview with an angry, passionate, articulate Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. The article will fill you in on all the details—from the tragic event that started it all to Apple’s anger at how it has been treated by the feds to where the legal arguments stand today.

I’ve been mildly on the FBI’s side since this story broke, but this article has weakened my Apple-should-follow-the-law resolve. This isn’t as simple as wiretapping or issuing a subpoena. Apple’s argument that the government is illegally compelling it to create a new product is compelling.

Two things stood out at me in this article.

Most importantly, Grossman says Cook stressed to him that however the litigation is decided, Apple will comply. This is an important point for anyone who is against Apple. It is saying that while it disagrees vehemently with the FBI’s argument and believes Congress should write a law governing this uncharted territory, Apple as a company has no designs on civil disobedience.

Second is how Grossman broadens the discussion beyond the arcane issue of breaking into one iPhone. The further new ground here, he argues, is the vast amount of information consumers are simply giving away every day via networks and devices far less secure than Apple’s smartphones. “The Internet is a vast, messy, porous place, and that same messiness that makes encryption impossible to regulate also means that however strong and seamless and pervasive encryption gets, it can only ever cover a fraction of the data that flows out of us all day, every day.”

This is good food for thought to start the week.

Adam Lashinsky
@adamlashinsky
adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

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BITS AND BYTES

Apple thinks smaller. One thing you can expect from its latest product proclamations on Monday: an upgrade of its most demure smartphone, the iPhone 5s, that caters to consumers who aren’t thrilled by ever-mushrooming display sizes. The model hasn’t been updated since 2013. (Wall Street Journal)

Banks should batten down. Security experts at SWIFT, the messaging cooperative representing 3,000 financial institutions, are preaching extra caution in the wake of an unprecedented attack in early February on the central bank of Bangladesh. Hackers managed to transfer $81 million to accounts in the Philippines. They also attempted to break into the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. (Reuters)

Yahoo considers Facebook ad deal. The Internet company is mulling a plan that would let the social network sell advertising for the Tumblr mobile app, reports The Information. Yahoo spent $1.1 billion on Tumblr, a microblogging service, in 2013. So far, it has failed to recoup meaningful revenue from that investment—barely 15% of Tumblr’s advertising inventory has been sold and Yahoo has been forced to write down the division’s value by 20%. (Fortune, The Information)

Mark Zuckerberg meets with China’s propaganda czar. Facebook’s CEO spent time with Liu Yunshan, the official in charge of the country’s longstanding Internet censorship policies. The social network isn’t available in China because of those restrictions, but Zuckerberg is keeping the dialogue open. (Reuters)

IBM defends radical high school experiment. Five years ago, the tech giant teamed with the New York Department of Education and several local colleges to create an innovative school in Brooklyn aimed at preparing minority students for careers in technology immediately after graduation. The idea is to create a pipeline of diverse job candidates. The report card so far, however, suggests that the six-year program may be very difficult to scale elsewhere. (Fortune)


THE DOWNLOAD

Twitter turns 10. Born “Twttr” as the brainchild of Jack Dorsey, Ev Williams, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass, the service became publicly available just a few months after Dorsey’s first tweet on March 21, 2006. A year later, its popularity exploded during the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin. From then on, its mark on Internet culture began, including the use of the “hashtag,” proposed in 2007 by technologist Chris Messina.

Last week, the social media service made a huge change to how information is displayed to visitors—it now organizes tweets according to algorithms, rather than chronologically. But it won’t support longer messages, as has been rumored for several months. Dorsey officially stands by the hallmark 140-character limit, saying it’s a “good constraint” that encourages communications brevity.

 



ONE MORE THING

What was Microsoft thinking? The software giant has apologized for hiring scantily clad female dancers as entertainment for a party at a game developers conference. The move drew sharp criticism from attendees, causing some to question its progress on gender diversity issues. (Reuters)


This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.
@greentechlady
heather@heatherclancy.com

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