Will the FBI take a bite out of Apple?
Apple has built itself into the largest quoted company in the world by being different. From the early days of the Macintosh computer, through the iconic iMac and onto the iPod, iPad and iPhone, its products have challenged the orthodox approach with a combination of design and features.
It has extended this into the virtual world. Unlike competitors such as Google and Facebook, which have built businesses essentially based on collecting and selling personal data to advertisers, Apple has positioned itself as a champion of privacy. In a speech in 2015 CEO Tim Cook stated, “We believe the customer should be in control of their own information.
This approach extends to protecting personal information stored on Apple devices and within iCloud. All iPhones and iPads are encrypted by default, meaning that even Apple itself cannot access the data on them. This obviously gives an unprecedented layer of protection for personal data, which has been particularly welcomed after Edward Snowden’s revelations of widespread snooping by intelligence services on electronic communications.
However protecting normal citizens against hackers, criminals and terrorists is one thing, but what happens when the iPhone in question actually belongs to a terrorist? This is the current case, being hotly debated in the media and on social media. Following the San Bernadino terrorist shootings last year, the FBI recovered one of the perpetrator’s iPhones. Obviously this is locked with a 4 digit passcode, and simply cycling through all possible combinations is impossible – after a number of failed tries iPhones are programmed to erase all data to combat this type of brute force attack.
Consequently, the FBI has asked Apple to help, removing the erase feature from this specific phone and allowing it to try and guess the password electronically, rather than having to type in the potential 10,000 combinations. It has refused, rejecting a court order and issuing an open letter stating that it will not ‘hack itself’ and create an insecure back door into its products that could be exploited by others.
In many ways Apple has a point – even without the Snowden revelations, governments have a poor record of keeping backdoors safe. This was demonstrated by the US Transportation Security Administration, which mandated that all luggage manufacturers created a skeleton key that could be used to open any suitcase. A photo of the master key was accidentally printed in the Washington Post, allowing criminals to model and create it using 3D printers.
At the same time, the FBI is adamant that it is not asking for access to the backdoor itself – it says it is happy for Apple to disable the erase feature itself and provide access to the data, without telling the Feds how it was done. Essentially Apple is putting itself above the law, which has potentially chilling ramifications given its size, number of users and global reach. It isn’t the plucky underdog it was when the Mac first went up against the PC.
The high profile nature of the case, and the fact that it involves a proven terrorist further complicates matters – most right-thinking people would want to help the government in this scenario. Perhaps the wisest words have come from Bill Gates, who is calling for a wider debate on the balance between privacy and accessibility, irrespective of the case in hand.
As I’ve said before, a reputation for protecting user information is a central part of the Apple brand – and is only becoming more important as the company branches into payments (Apple Pay) and personal health data. Therefore its principled stance makes perfect sense from a marketing point of view. It may well have to eventually comply in some way, but it will have lived up to its promise to fight for privacy, keeping the rest of its community happy, and consequently protected its brand. However what the whole case shows is that we need a grown-up, rational debate about who has access to our personal data, under what circumstances and how they can access it.
February 24, 2016 - Posted by Chris Measures | Marketing, PR, Social Media | Apple, backdoor, Bill Gates, Edward Snowden, encryption, espionage, Facebook, FBI, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Google, ICloud, iOS, iPad, IPhone, Macintosh, master key, San Bernadino, snooping, Spying, terrorist, Transportation Security Administration, TSA
1 Comment »
Why Revolutionary Measures?
Marketing is undergoing a revolution. The advent of social media provides the opportunity for one-to-one communication for the first time since the move to an industrial society. This blog will look at what this means for B2B PR and marketing, incorporating my own thoughts/rants and interests. Do let me know your feedback!
About meI'm Chris Measures and I've spent the last 18 years creating and implementing PR and marketing campaigns for technology companies. I've worked with everyone from large quoted companies to fast growth start-ups, giving me unrivalled experience and ideas. I'm now director of Measures Consulting, an agency that uses this expertise to deliver PR and marketing success for technology businesses.
- RT @WiredUK: 80 new Pokémon including Chikorita and Totodile are coming to Pokémon Go this week wired.uk/0KA9X3 https://t.co/dV3lxp… 4 days ago
- RT @brexitbenefits: All indications are that a lot of what the #Remain campaign said is coming true, and absolutely everything that #Brexit… 4 days ago
- BBC News - How hackers could use doll to open your front door bbc.co.uk/news/technolog… 4 days ago
- RT @Simon_Kelner: The Mail v @GaryLineker - a nasty spat that is reflective of a wider, more important, issue. My column is here https://t… 6 days ago
- What the on-demand economy means for marketing linkedin.com/pulse/what-on-… by @ChrisMeasures on @LinkedIn #Marketing https://t.co/foJNoLVfYW 1 week ago
advertising Amazon Android Apple ARM Artificial intelligence Autonomy Barack Obama BBC BBC Micro Business Cambridge Cambridgeshire Cambridge University CfEL Chris Measures Communications Creativity Crossing the Chasm Daily Mail David Cameron Digital Donald Trump Ed Miliband Edward Snowden Entrepreneur European Union Facebook FIFA Google government Hewlett Packard IBM Idea Transform innovation Intel internet Internet of Things iPad IPhone Journalism Journalist LinkedIn London Malcolm Tucker marketing Mark Zuckerberg Measures Consulting Microsoft mobile MySpace Nick Clegg Nigel Farage Nokia Norwich PR Privacy Public Relations Raspberry Pi Silicon Fen Silicon Valley Smartphone social media Social network Starbucks startup Tech City Technology The Economist twitter United States WhatsApp World Cup YouTube ZX Spectrum
Site infoRevolutionary Measures
Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.