I’ve been contemplating on the FBI’s accusations that Apple is using encryption and security as a marketing ploy to sell more phones.
So what if it is? It doesn’t mean that Apple’s arguments regarding security are any less true just because they’re using it to push phones.
Remember when Blackberry was the device to have in the business world? And how iPhones and Android smartphones couldn’t make a dent in that particular sector even as they were taking over the consumer space? What finally weakened Blackberry’s position in the workplace was the introduction of serviceable security features by Apple and Google, such as the use of full disk encryption (yeah, people were using smartphones for work regardless of the security features…but the IT department only got behind the BYOD concept once the security was there).
Security as a Business Enabler
Even then, security professionals panned these initial efforts. Why? Because these features weren’t good enough. The status quo, however, was not to be. Apple and Google made great strides in the security of their smartphones over a short while.
This underlying security is now allowing both companies to do more.
Consider the smartphone’s role in the coming financial and commercial revolution. It’s already become a method for making payments at the cash register. Some point to the inconvenience of fishing out a wallet from one’s pockets as powering this commercial revolution. They’re wrong. What’s powering this change is the security underlying the technology. Apple Pay requires that the correct fingerprint be presented when making payment. This way of confirming a transaction is orders of magnitude more secure than using a PIN or checking the signature on a driver’s license – if it’s done at all.
Would mobile payment at the point of sale have a chance if people knew that the underlying security was compromised? Would any service that requires privacy and security at its heart?
Also consider what the smartphone is today. It is a personal Library of You. It has the usual stuff like work-related information (emails, work documents, etc). It contains unusual stuff like nude selfies and disturbing fanfic. A smartphone can contain your innermost thoughts and desires. It tracks where you are and where you have been. It has a list of people you known and have known (and, possibly, will know). It contains your banking and other financial statements. Your medical history. Basically, a lot of personal stuff.
Does this information not deserve to be protected as securely as possible? Forget intrusive government actions; smartphone users deserve as high a level of protection as possible considering what’s being put at stake. If the years have proven anything over and over, it’s this: people, whether with a criminal bent or not, have been very successful at unlocking half-assed security. And once a way to defeat security is found, it spreads over the internet like wildfire.
Regardless of how or why Apple is enhancing its smartphone security, the need for security will never be less than what you currently have, whether you decide to label it “marketing” or otherwise.
Changing Nature of the Game
It stands to reason that Apple is defending itself tooth and nail despite their compliance with government requests in the past. Never mind matters concerning privacy; the nature of the request has changed. As noted elsewhere, now it’s a matter of accessing a phone’s contents using the tools that Apple currently does not have. Apple has to create something to do it. Apply it to something else and it sounds ridiculous:
- Reasonable: I am commandeering your car.
- Unreasonable: I am forcing you to fix this car so that I may commandeer it. You provide the tools for fixing it.
- Even more unreasonable: I am forcing you to curtail your engine’s performance so it doesn’t go above 15 mph because that guy over there may someday commandeer it and he doesn’t handle high speeds very well. Because of, you know, terrorism.
That last one is comparable to the various state-level “decryptable” encryption bills that are floating around.
The fact that the government is compelling Apple to create something that doesn’t yet exist is reason alone for legislative sparring. Let’s face it, it’s unusual that when you give an inch they (whoever they may be) don’t take a yard or more.