Apple vs. FBI - Ethical Challenges

Added on -2019-09-25

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Apple vs. FBI - Ethical Challenges | PrivacyThis case came into headlines when 14 people were killed and 22 were injured when a terroristattack took place in San Bernardino, California. After the incident, FBI got hold of an iPhone 5Cand they tried to access all the important data from the phone. As per the court orders, they tookhelp from the manufacturer, Apple Inc., and were able to unlock the phone. Later on FBIpressurized the company to design such a system that would help them bypass the securitysystem of iPhone – 10-try limit. Apple, however, denied to design such platform that wouldallow the FBI to successfully bypass without trying all the possible combinations (Kharpal,2016). This attitude on the part of the company angered the US Government.In terms of ICT, this case exemplifies the issue of privacy and security. The program that theGovernment wanted Apple to create was a backdoor, which could possibly be used as much aspossible to crack any number of devices. This, according to the company, would tantamount tocreating a master key capable to unlock any number of locks, which would simply be acceptableto any person. Therefore, with this difference of attitudes, a moral and legal battle was ensuedbetween the two entities and a discussion was started even among the masses as to where themoral lines be drawn as far as privacy and security are concerned. The refusal of AppleComputers to toe the line of FBI or Government and taking an ethical stance makes the situationa classical example of following of “Virtue Ethics”. As we know that virtue ethics are onlyconcerned with one’s virtues and moral character (Hursthouse, 2003). In this case as well Appletook a decision to care for the values and took a stand for the public that it was morally wrong tocompromise with the security of their data so that it could be prevented from getting misused.Even before this case, there has been a long debate regarding the protection of an individual’sprivacy. So, from a moral point of view, the present case has definitely encouraged a public
debate regarding an issue where repeated requests made by law enforcement agencies could havegrave implications in terms of misuse of data belonging to the general public. In a recent casewhere a whistleblower, Edward Snowden, who worked with NSA, threw light on the matter ofstate surveillance overreach. This led a passionate public outcry regarding their privacy and onaccount of that a good reason for the politicians to legislate a relevant law and lay down privacyred lines.The approach of looking at this case can be from the point of view of “deontology”. It is the fieldof psychology which is concerned with one’s duties and rules with which he/she should act at aparticular situation without thinking about the consequences that the very act may or may notbring (Balestrieri, 2009). Apple Computers on being cajoled by the Government, customized theversion of iOS allowing FBI to figure out how to get access to that specific iPhone. However,this point of view is self-defeating as it would not be suffice to create a backdoor just for the casein consideration. The loophole intentionally created in this manner will eventually make theplatform more vulnerable and therefore could be exploited and misused by the people suchhackers or dangerous professionals. The common examples of such an act of compromise withthe security and privacy is attack of bugs, viruses, malwares and Trojans enabled due to suchvulnerabilities. So, even if such vulnerabilities are mandated by the government, the step on thepart of any company would not only be ethically wrong but could set a dangerous precedentbecause it would definitely going to open up the floodgates for the data to be stolen and misused.The larger issue that arises at this point in time following this tussle between these two entities isthat there is no such thing as a completely secure system. Secondly, the FBI finally figured out asto how to get access to the iPhone, the chances are highly likely that they can crack any otherApple devices as many number of times as they can. Also, it is important to note that, in relation

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