Apple vs. FBI

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

Darshan H D, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur


One of interesting case which caught attention of the world was the Apple vs FBI case. The US court ordered Apple to break in to the IPhone which belonged Syed Farook who is responsible for the murder of 14 people in San Bernardino, California in December 2015. The company’s CEO Tim Cook refused to comply with the court’s ruling, stating that, the court’s ruling is short-sighted and this ruling would be violate the user privacy.

Apple devices have high user privacy. They have robust encryption and hence are difficult to hack. The company has also shut itself out of the encryption loop i.e. the company will not know the user passwords in order to prevent this type of ethical dilemma of choosing between security and privacy.

Federal agents do not know the passcode of the accused’s phone. Hacking the phone would run the risk of losing data on the phone. Since Apple is not in the encryption loop and they cannot break into the phone, through the court order the FBI has asked Apple to disable certain features which would enable them to access the contents of the phone.

The phone has a 4 digit encryption key to unlock. So to login to the phone FBI has to try all the 4 digit combinations. But after a few failed attempts the phone gets locked and there is a risk of losing all data. So, FBI wants Apple to create a special software that when installed in the phone would give the user unlimited attempts to enter the passcode. As Tim Cook stated this software in wrong hands would be very risky and will majorly the affect the company as Apple has position itself as a firm which values privacy.

The case is a clear example of the ethical dilemma between privacy and security. The law has a major role to play to define the fine line between privacy and security.


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