Apple FBI Backdoor Denial Case
Apple is now among the largest publicly traded companies in the world valued at 916B as at 15/08/2019 and being one of the big 4 technology companies along with the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook. Apple is both an industry leader and an innovator in many aspects of its operations, specialising in both hardware and software development and operating in line with their professional values. According to Apple (2019) their core values include Accessibility, Education, Environment, Inclusion and Diversity, Privacy and Supplier Responsibility. Apple pushes their privacy advantage over their competitors with their marketing campaigns including the advert “Privacy on iPhone – Private side” which has amassed almost 30 million views making it their 3rd most viewed advert online.
Concurrently government agencies such as the FBI are needing methods to break electronic privacy more frequently as electronic devices are being used by criminals and contain key pieces of evidence.
Since 2015’s San Bernardino shooting which left 14 people dead the FBI has wanted Apple to produce a software that could unlock their iPhones; however, Apple has repeatedly refused to do so. Since then many more attacks such as the recent Dayton Ohio shooting which left nine dead, have sparked debate regarding the FBIs access to information. At a cybersecurity conference Attorney General William Barr stated encryptions cost is “ultimately measured in a mounting number of victims men, women and children who are the victims of crimes, crimes that could have been prevented if law enforcement had been given lawful access to encrypted evidence.” (Justice Gov 2019). Two ethical issues are therefor made clear ‘Should the FBI and other government agencies have access to private information’ and ‘Should apple have refused to give the FBI a way to unencrypt their phones.’
The first ethical issue (Should the FBI and other government agencies have access to private information) impacts the primary stakeholders of the public, the government agencies and criminals. The public would both lose their privacy but gain protection due to the prevention of crime. The government agencies would gain access to information that could help solve existing cases and prevent future cases of violent crimes. Finally, criminals will no longer have the protection that comes with encryption which may deter them from committing a crime at all and increases the chance of them being held accountable.
The ethical issue ‘Should apple have refused to give the FBI a way to unencrypt their phones” involves the following primary stakeholders:
Stakeholder Impact on Stakeholder
Apple Inc. (company) Reputation – Apples refusal created the view that apple values consumer privacy and rights therefore increasing positive reputation. If apple agreed to the FBI terms it would have had a negative impact.
Apple Shareholders refusing the FBI’s demands caused a 14% increase in AAPL stock in 2016 (Yahoo finance 2019) and privacy has continued to be a selling point ever since keeping demand high. This creates high returns for shareholders.
Apple Customers Apple customers keep their privacy however may have increased risk due to criminals.
Apple Customers – criminals Criminals also keep their privacy making it easier to escape accountability for crimes.
General Public The general public has an increased risk due to criminal’s privacy and lack of deterrent to crime. (the backdoor would have deterred crime.)
FBI and other agencies Need to spend more resources to break into phones for evidence. Harder to prevent the crimes.
Apple competitors Still have inferior privacy when compared to apple. If apple agreed to FBI demands other smartphone sales would increase.
Apple Employees Employee’s work for a company who values their customers and the company values which may impact wellbeing.