The Apple vs. FBI fight is continuing…with no end in sight. But this is not new. This is an old debate. In October 2014, FBI Director Comey wanted “front door” access into devices (http://bit.ly/1QHTw66). Almost a year ago he wanted “backdoor” access into phones (http://bit.ly/1Hdx78B).
Can the government compel a company to “create” a new tool to hack into their own customer’s data? Thus far, this has been a privacy vs. security debate in the US, and that is an important debate.
But there may be another factor at play. Money.
In its latest announcement, Apple reported sales of $ 29 billion in the USA and almost $ 46 billion outside the US. If Apple creates the tool to hack into their data, what is the consequence of this action outside the US, where they sell far more of the same products and where their upside potential is also greater?
We assume that the standards of due diligence required for extraordinary access with judicial oversight etc. in the US – to the extent that this occurs – are also the same in other countries. They are not. For Apple, this is not just about what happens in the US.
The Chinese would probably want the encryption “hacked every time” and at will; the Europeans want their encryption kept intact “all the time” – no peeking; and yet others may want it available for their government during full moon nights or leap days with no oversight mechanism in place at all. Can Apple then sell their product in a global economy, where they cannot assure their customers of privacy, something that their rivals can? Blackberry had a similar run in with the Pakistani government and refused to provide access and threatened to leave the country, before they prevailed.
And who is responsible for creating these rules in the US anyway? Our congress? They have been AWOL. They are “drafting” a bill that they intend to introduce next week to establish “a national commission on security and technology challenges in the digital age”. What have they been waiting for?
And if we think that the resolution of the current fight will be the end of it, think again. Quantum computing is on the horizon. When it becomes mainstream, according to Ron Rivest (a professor at MIT and one of the world’s leading cryptographers), encryption will be turned on its head, as in anyone with a “large quantum computer” will be able to defeat any encryption. Even the NSA is in a panic (http://bit.ly/23Jx28x).
With quantum computing, no frontdoors and backdoors will be needed for the good guys or the bad guys. This battle has only just begun…groundhog days are here.