Color us somewhat unsurprised, but all five remaining GOP presidential candidates are siding with the FBI over Apple in the ongoing disagreement over whether Apple should help hack the iPhone of one of the dead San Bernardino shooters — thereby setting a potential precedent regarding future user security.
Quizzed on the hot topic — which is fast becoming one of the biggest tech stories of 2016 — during yesterday’s final Republican presidential primary debate before Super Tuesday, candidates argued that Apple should back down on this issue in the interests of public safety in the U.S.
“Apple doesn’t want to do it because they think it hurts their brand,” said Marco Rubio. “Well, let me tell you, their brand is not superior to the national security of the United States of America.” Rubio, interestingly, had previously called this a “very complicated issue,” but now says he was mislead by Apple about what was being requested.
Ted Cruz, meanwhile, argued that — while he would agree that Apple shouldn’t have to comply with a broader order about a backdoor on every smartphone it makes, “on the question of unlocking this cellphone of a terrorist, we should enforce the court order and find out everyone that terrorist at San Bernardino talked to on the phone, texted with, emailed.”
John Kasich used to opportunity to attack President Obama — noting that, “The president of the United States should’ve convened a meeting with Apple [and] our security forces. You know what you do when you’re the president? You lock the door, and you say you’re not coming out until you reach an agreement that both gives the security people what they need and protects the rights of Americans.”
Ben Carson said that, “I think allowing terrorists to get away with things is bad for America, [and that] I would expect Apple to comply with that court order. If they don’t comply with that, you’re encouraging chaos in our system.”
Donald Trump, finally, has been clear about his position from the start — even threatening to permanently switch to Samsung phones if Apple doesn’t surrender to federal government demands, and calling on his followers to do the same.
Apple, for its part, isn’t backing down. Yesterday, it officially asked a judge to dismiss the court order asking it to unlock the iPhone 5c at the center of the current controversy. In a 65-page document, Apple reveals the extent to which it has so far assisted with the case — but suggests that helping hack the iPhone may very well be illegal.
The problem, ultimately, comes down to whether or not this opens the floodgate for future snooping and hacking of iPhones. The likes of Bill Gates have suggested that it doesn’t, but even FBI director James Comey hasn’t been entirely clear on the issue. This week, Comey defended iPhone hacking in front of a congressional panel — saying that this is a one-off case that exists in isolation, but also admitted that the verdict, “will be instructive for other courts” in future.
No wonder the Department of Justice is already lining up to file court orders for Apple to help extract iPhone data in a further dozen cases around the U.S. — with none of them, incidentally, relating to terrorism.