Apple vs FBI

On December 2nd 2015, 14 people were killed and 22 were injured in San Bernardino due to terrorist attack. During the investigation process, an iPhone mobile was found which was believed to be owned by the shooters. The FBI that was responsible for the investigation made several attempts to convince Apple Company to unlock the phone in order to find any possible evidence left in any forms of data. However, this was strongly rejected by Apple as they believe it can be breach of human rights and privacy of owners and can have significant effect on the reputation of the company with millions of consumers.


One of the prominent features of Apple products among the consumers is the safety of their software and their reliability which is basically one of most important factors for attracting customer’s attention to this well-known brand and make it unique in comparison with other competitors. People who believe in this feature would buy this products and as they are well-assured about this, they keep loads of confidential information and save them in the forms of pictures and files and they can be anything from personal pictures to the saved private emails on iCloud which can include instruction of manufacturing of a very unique product which its production is monopolised to one company in world or even political authorities’ top secret conversations.

Therefore the possible reason that why Apple is fighting the FBI’s encryption backdoor efforts might be explained that the company tries to protect their commercial secrets and privacy of its customer which has spent years of efforts to attract. However FBI claims that the codes will be used once only by them under certain circumstances to access the terrorist’s phone, Apple believes that these codes could make it possible to access every phone and in a larger image to any software on Apple

devices which can make severe negative effect on security of the customers. Even another suggestion from FBI was to make an Apple malware to be sent to the phone by the company compatible with the phone codes in order to access the data which was rejected due to this fact that it can result in any possible abuse for customers phones for the future that even updates which are automatic can be assumed to be malware and can result in people not even doing the essential updates later on. The Apple Company doubts that the government is taking advantages of hacking tools in order to make surveillance on citizens. So according to Kant’s theory, what Apple is doing is in agreement with the human rights law and certain principles related to privacy and security of millions of people. Death of 14 people is not acceptable but when it comes to the point to endanger security of millions that can be intelligible. 


American government has the obligation to protect their people from any kind of terrorist attacks as any other governments do. This action should not only be valued during or after the danger, but also in the case that tragedies are not yet occurred.  As for this particular case, FBI managed to get access to the phone which could help to investigate the allegedly Islamic State-inspired file.

For the privacy issues which were Apple concerns, FBI director James Comey stated that unlocking of the iPhone used by the terrorists was only needed. There is no benefit for the government to recreate the “master key” and dominate private companies as the government is being supported financially by the tax that they are paying. Also, the “Privacy against Security” problem as discussed, can be weighted when a tragedy is about to happen. Sometimes the threat to national security should be considered as the first emergency comparing to the privacy. ‘National security should supersede privacy concerns in major issues’ said by Warren Buffett. In addition to that, many countries nowadays use call recording and monitoring to gather evidence in criminal activities.

From governments view, this can be considered to be a Utilitarian for Apple Company and it was believed that because of the commercial risk that can be caused for Apple; they pretext to highlight the privacy over physical security of the citizens. Also the Republicans of the US government stood by FBI, and the Florida senator Marco Rubio stated: reasons of Apple rejection is only for supporting their brand name, but this should be noticed that their brand isn’t superior to the national security of America.

It has been a dilemma on choosing the moral way which benefits the both sides. If the case is referred to court, it can have much more serious consequences for the side losing in the court which can be huge reduction in Apple sales or not being able to prevent future terrorist attack due to lack of important data which was on the phone. Their current method is aspirational for the code of conduct for each side and is not practical. Sometimes companies should trust their government and understand that people lives are more important than people privacies, although we believe that the information which is investigated by government should be kept safe according to data protection law and they should be abided by that. To be fair this argument is quite complicated to deal with and get the straightforward answer as it is obvious from the results which have been already seen. There are some more suggestions which can be considered:

1. Both apple and government should find a reliable third party to make sure FBI will not break the agreement of cracking on that phone. (E.g. United Nation, non-profit organizations)

2. Let the government make a new law to deal with this special circumstances for future.

3. FBI should justify their further intends with strong proofs of their validity to authorize the hacking operations.

4. Public vote among the country

Behzad Bagheribidhendi
Qinfeng Tan
Wen Liao
Boshen Li


18 thoughts on “Apple vs FBI

  1. Personally, I agree anti-unlock the phone although Iphone can be easy unlocked by many hackers in the world.
    You can’t always assume government intentions are good, sometimes they are as bad as the terrorists and other evil doers they are trying to stop. You only have to have a fleeting knowledge of Snowden or Wikileaks to realise that.
    Just because you live in a democracy doesn’t mean injustice by government is not done, think 50’s McCarthyism, criminalisation of gay people or civil rights.
    Apple is 101 % right to try and protect us all from the excess of government interference. As we know democracy and freedom sometimes has to come at a price, including not doing things that might reduce a terrorist attack as doing so defeats the freedom and democracy you are trying to protect.
    i.e. Apples refusal is actually NOT playing into the hands of those people (terrorists) who want to scare us into giving up our freedoms, the FBI is.


  2. I am quite agree with the opinion about how the Apple company refuse cooperating with FBI agents. From my point of view, what the Apple did is trying to help people to fight against politic power and state machines. The privacy of citizens is an inviolable right and protected by constitution. If the government is seeking technical support from public, running the whole processing under transparency is what they are supposed to do next. The government needs to lay their profile low for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This an excellent article which gives some sharp points criticizing the actions about what the government and the Apple Company have already taken.

    As far as I am concerned, the government have to choose the best solution regards with the public safety. It is true that the privacy of public is an inviolate right which no institution or organization can violate. However in this special case, what will happen if the phone really contains the key information about the terrorist attack? I believe that there will be concession for both sides, because whatever they will do, crack the phone or not, will have huge influence on millions of lives.


  4. This is another case involves the controversial topic — how to deal with individual’s privacy when it relates to public safety. In this case, it is apparent Apple is unwilling to take the risk, as they are worrying the unlocking process could hazard the security system and lead to serious privacy fears among their customers. Nervetheless said, the request from FBI is also rational enough, considering the phone itself is indeed critical for the investigation. My suggestion is, in order to strike a compromise, Apple may give the permission but make sure the whole unlocking process is under full monitoring.


  5. It is hard to ascertain that whether the phone has to be cracked unless no absolute evidences showing that the phone user is guilty. Really, personal privacy is so important to individuals and it needs to be defended. However, the government reserves its right to take actions accordingly with regard to the matter of fact as law permits. On the other hand, Apple also has the right to preserve its commercial and technological secret legally rather than conniving crime.


  6. I understand that privacy issues for the general public could potentially arise as a result of creating a loophole which allows the government to ‘spy’ on citizens. However, putting personal privacy above a matter of national security does not seem logical. This loophole definitely exposes apple users to a vast amount of security threats but, measures could be put in place to contain the techniques behind unlocking the IOS software in attempt to avoid possible leakage. A breech in the security software may seem like a big price to pay but in my opinion, the lives taken by past terrorists and, those lives that are about to be taken by future terrorists are an even bigger price to pay.


  7. nice debate, for the government’s view, phone monitoring will be the police’s right. the majority of citizens may have the same point as what police thinking once the the criminals were arrested. monitoring conversation sometimes will be a way of ending the case and giving people’s an answer. however, government and police are similar, an private company should not be forced to do something it doesn’t want because of the word ‘private’. they are considered having no obligation to save anyone or protect national security. so, if govenment can unlock the phone, just do it. if you can’t, please go for another way since apple has no liability for assisting you.


  8. Interesting argument. I quite liked your approach to the topic. Employing a reliable third party is a good idea.


  9. I personally think Apple should not hack their phones in any way. The US government is already evesdropping on phone calls, but unlocking the phone will damage the reputation of Apple beyond compensating and if Apple gives the codes to unlock the phones of course th government will use it in all the criminal cases although now they are saying it’s only once. If they want to unlock the phone they have to go to companies which are made for the security services as they finally did it and unlocked thr phone with help of a company in Israel.


  10. This is a really good Debate, I reckon it has pros and cons in this debate.
    I will agree with the 4 points given towards the end of this debate.


  11. This is an interesting article to talk about!
    From my point of view i think FBI should corporate with apple as it can save one more terrorist attack and can save many lives. Apple can use third party as evidence so that apple never use the codes again!


  12. I think to bring a 3rd party to make sure the FBI doesn’t break the agreement is a good suggestion. Moreover, the 4 points are good.


  13. Well on the topic, Apple vs FBI, I think the point Apple was making is obnoxious. The government found a phone in the sight of the attack, which is a major, crucial evidence and could help the government to get hold of attackers. The terrorists are affecting and making people of the world question religion. Specifically Islam which is intolerable. If FBI could get hold of some sort of evidence by unlocking the phone that was found , then why not? Why risk the possibilities of further more attacks for a so called “Security Purpose”?


  14. [MI think for any service provider it is imp to protect their customers privacy but its even their responsibility to protect humanity
    Apple is also correct to an sirten extend regarding there customer privacy but I feel that they should also show some responsibility towards humanity by disclosing the information to FBI and also support the new law for such cases


  15. I think for any service provider it is imp to protect their customers privacy but its even their responsibility to protect humanity
    Apple is also correct to an certain extend regarding there customer privacy but I feel that they should also show some responsibility towards humanity by disclosing the information to FBI and also support the new law for such cases


  16. I believe protecting the privacy is an important matter as physical safety is.
    So bringing the issue to the third party with an international base which prevents FBI or any other governmental sources breaking the agreement would be a good idea


  17. I think hacking the phones would break the promises made by Apple which would effect the company’s reputation and customers loyalty. So my suggestion is they should involve a third party just to make sure FBI dont break the agreement.


  18. Although you have tried to consider points of view from the both sides I have to disagree with your suggested solutions. This is simply not acceptable for me. Obviously the number of people using iPhone is way more than the population of US and I can not accept the fact that US government expect Apple to ignore security and privacy of a considerable part of the international population in hopes of finding clues to improve American people safety.


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