We’re having the wrong conversation about Apple and the FBI
We’re having the wrong conversation about privacy in the U.S.. The narrative is focused on how the bullies at the FBI are forcing the powers for good over at Apple to hand over data that they’d rather protect for the good of all.
Here’s the conversation I’d rather be having: why our government is not protecting our privacy. Instead, we are reduced to relying on an enormous, profit seeking corporation to make a stand for our rights. At the end of the day this argument dumbs down to “Apple good, government bad” and it’s far too easy and concedes far too much. We need to think harder and demand more.
Keep in mind a few things. Apple is not accountable to us. They are a private company. When people want to argue otherwise, they say that we “vote with our dollars” for Apple. But that just means that consumers affect gadget design, which includes safety and security features. At the end of the day, though, Apple is accountable to the laws of the land, and they will and have turned over all kind of private data about users when the law forces them to. They are not heroes, because they cannot be, even if they wanted to be.
I want to stop talking about Apple, and its operating systems, and so on. That’s all a sideshow. I want to talk about demanding a government that will acknowledge that its duty is to protect privacy while investigating risks. Right now the FBI is falling far short, trivializing the risk to the rest of us when backdoors are created and used at scale. They have made an internal calculation that the trade-offs are well worth the risks, without really having a conversation with the public in which they even measure the risks. And those risks are our risks.
And yes, that is complicated, nuanced, and there are plenty of conflicts of interest involved, which are hard to balance. But that’s the thing about governing in a democracy: we need to have the conversation, and the government needs to stay accountable to all of us. Let’s stop talking about Apple and start talking about democracy in the era of big data.