Yes, it has come to this. The speculation has it that the courts may force Apple to crack open the iPhone that belonged to the San Bernardino terrorist who shot down multiple people on the eve of Christmas. The FBI thinks that there is some evidence inside the iPhone but due to its very strong encryption features, it is humanly impossible for the bureau to hack into the phone and retrieve information without creating a software doorway.
As it is well known by now Apple and many other tech companies believe that once they give in to the demand of the FBI, it will set off a chain reaction. More governments all over the world may force the same technology companies to hack into the phones of people and jeopardise their lives in the process. The courts and the FBI think that it should be taken as a one-off case. Read more about the Apple vs FBI case.
According to this New York Times report, the Apple engineers who may be forced by the court to unlock the iPhone may quit the company in order to avoid having to unlock it. This is their plan B. Unlocking the iPhone would be like undermining the security of the software they have created. Well, most of these employees are flushed with cash so they won’t have any problem quitting Apple.
Apple thinks that its employees will find the act of hacking into the phone of the San Bernardino terrorist fundamentally offensive because they will be forced to compromise the security of their own encryption mechanism for which, they have toiled for years.
Is Apple taking it too far? They must have thought it through. It must be kept in mind that its core audience bears this attitude of anti-establishment group, always fearful of that fabled “Orwellian” world where the Big Brother, the government, tries to control every aspect of your life and wants to observe your every action. So the core audience will be happy with the sort of defiance they are displaying. Their open defiance to the FBI’s dictat may even increase their sales.
Personally, I think it’s less about principles and more about posturing. Does the impermeability of their encryption software take precedence over the security concerns of the people? What if more, and deadlier, terrorists are roaming around free simply because Apple is being intransigent? I’m not saying that Apple’s case does not have merit, it does, but it shouldn’t be fought like this. I don’t know what sort of technology will be involved in hacking into a single iPhone, but if it can be done, Apple should help the FBI instead of acting like a spoiled brat.
Maybe they can help the FBI hack into the iPhone of the terrorist and then later on release an update to patch the hole that they create so that nobody is able to use it in future.