If you're at all like me, you've probably heard a lot about the iPhone that was recovered after the 2015 San Bernardino attack but didn't know jack shit about what was actually going on. Here it is in a nutshell: After the shootout that ended up leaving both perpetrators, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik dead (along with fourteen victims), the San Bernardino police recovered an iPhone 5c that belonged to one of them. The FBI wanted to view its contents to get more information about the attack, but ended up not being able to unlock the phone, and then issued a court order trying to force Apple to unlock it. Apple refused. What happened next was a massive, nationwide debate about the issues of personal privacy versus national security.
Now here's the lowdown: The iPhone 5c in question had a version of iOS installed on it that was either iOS 8 or later. With these later versions of iOS, there's a level of encryption on the phone that is so detailed that not even Apple can break into the phone to retrieve the information. The only way to access it is to enter the four–digit passcode that most of you probably have enabled on your own phones.
In order to get around this pesky problem, the FBI asked Apple to create a whole new iOS that could be installed on the iPhone that would allow law enforcement to access the information on the device. The only problem with this new iOS is that it would include a "back door" to the device; a master key to the whole iOS would have to be created, allowing anyone who knew this master key to access any device that has this version of iOS installed on it. This right here is the reason that everyone in the tech world has their panties in a bunch about it; if this iOS were created (it doesn't exist as of now), it could effectively erase the privacy of anyone who had it installed on their own personal device.
Apple claims that they've supplied the FBI with as much information as they can, but the FBI filed a court order through the All Writs Act of 1789 to try and get Apple to create this technology to unlock the phone. This law, passed in 1789 (wow!) basically says that the Federal courts are able to issue orders to people or companies in order to aid the keeping of the law. Apple opposed the order, and posted a letter on their website from CEO Tim Cook explaining why they're opposing it. Originally, Apple was supposed to comply by February 26, 2016, but as of now have still done nothing. The US Department of Justice also filed a new application on February 19 trying to get Apple to comply, but still, Apple remains dormant.
The issue's sparked a huge debate in the country, from politicians to tech companies to regular citizens. All of the GOP presidential candidates have expressed opposition to Apple, siding with the FBI and voicing their displeasure, including frontrunner Donald Trump: "To think that Apple won't allow us to get into her cell phone, who do they think they are? No, we have to open it up." Bernie Sanders takes a more complicated stance: "It's a very complicated issue. I am very fearful in America about Big Brother, but what I also worry about is the possibility of another terrorist attack against our country. And frankly, I think there is a middle ground that can be reached." Tim Cook takes the other side of the argument: "While we believe the FBI's intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect."
I find myself coming down on the side of Apple. In no way am I condoning the actions of the San Bernardino terrorists, or the idea of terrorism in general, but personal privacy seems to be a fading luxury of the average American citizen. Creating a tool like the iOS that the FBI wants Apple to create is just too dangerous to exist, in my opinion. If this technology fell into the wrong hands, the privacy of encryption as we know it would soon be a distant memory. Maybe this makes the FBI's job a little bit harder, but it's my belief that as an American citizen I, and every other citizen, am entitled to this one little remaining piece of privacy in today's rapidly changing world.