In the wake of the San Bernadino terror attacks, a US
court has ordered that Apple build a backdoor into the
The FBI recovered an iPhone belonging to one of the suspects.
Problem is, they don't know the passcode and can't get past
So the FBI wants Apple to build another version of iOS with
hackable security, to enable the FBI to break in to the device.
Apple is not keen. It says that building a backdoor into iOS
devices represents an unjustifiable breach of personal security and
It kind of begs the question, how does a single US judge end up
with the power to, potentially, break the internet.
The FBI is relying on a 1789 law that effectively allows courts
to make any orders necessary or appropriate in the exercise of
their jurisdiction. It provides a neat means for law enforcement
agencies to seek extraordinary power without the endorsement of the
legislature. The only real restraint is that the order is not
unreasonably burdensome. The 1789 law is itself a backdoor.
The broader debate about breaking encryption in favour of
national security is important. The US and UK governments have been
talking about it a lot lately. And if they go there, it seems
pretty likely that Australia will too.
Unsurprisingly, the big internet players oppose it. Apple,
Google and many others are speaking loudly of the danger of
breaking encryption. The cost to personal security and consumer
confidence is high; too high they say. Apart from the question of
intrusion into our private affairs by the state, it's
inevitable that bad people will get their hands on the same
capability before long. This genie won't fit back in the
This is a serious issue with massive implications. It deserves
proper debate in US Congress, or in federal parliament here at
home; not backdoor treatment under a 227 year old law.
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