What’s Really Compelling About Apple’s Fight With the FBI

March 21, 2016, 11:57 AM UTC
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights 2015 Ripple Of Hope Awards - Inside
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the Robert F. Kennedy human rights 2015 Ripple of Hope awards at New York Hilton Midtown on December 8, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
Noam Galai—WireImage

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I’ve found it difficult lately to pay attention to every turn of the screw at Apple (AAPL), which is expected to launch a new wave of iPhones 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.

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