Privacy or Safety or Can We Have Both?



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Privacy Is Useless Unless…

There is currently a raging fight between Tim Cook, Apple CEO and the FBI, the gist of which – in case you did not know – is that Tim refused to help FBI unlock the phone (an iPhone) the San Bernardino, CA shooters used.

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Tim’s argument suggests that to help FBI is to hand the government the key to everyone’s phone (those who have an iPhone of course); in other words, what Tim is saying is the government – from that point on – will be able to access the information of everyone who has an iPhone.

FBI’s argument is that the bureau is not interested in anybody else. Its main, sole, only and “cross my heart” interest is to have that phone unlocked. That sounds simple, right? Since when is anything ever simple in life?

Simple or not, Tim is not budging from his position; he won’t do it. So, FBI went to court to force Tim to help. That back and forth between those two giants has generated what is now a country wide debate over privacy.

I like privacy as much as the other guy; I am not naïve to believe that the government would not use the opportunity to collect data if given the opportunity but stamped into my memory is the fall of the twin towers on 9/11/2001; I would give up a little bit of my privacy to prevent any such tragedy from happening again. To remember that it happened does not add much to the conversation; to help prevent it from happening again is every American‘s responsibility. As it stands today, Tim Cook is only giving lip service.

If you buy into Tim’ simplistic explanation that to help FBI is “the end of privacy” as we know it – was there ever any privacy? I wasn’t aware. Well, I’ll live – you would stand with Apple on the privacy debate. Many already have; as of this writing, the debates on the airwaves are complemented by protests or shore of support for Apple’s position on the issue of privacy. To be fair, Tim is not wrong to be concerned about privacy for his customers. Our government in general, the secret agencies (NSA, FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, etc.) in particular have a long track record of violating American privacy in the name of security, national security that is. So, it is of some comfort that someone with muscle such as Tim Cook stands up to big Tom (I mean FBI) to force the conversation into the open. After all, this is America, right?

But one would be naïve to believe that’s the gist of Tim’s concern. Follow the money is always a safe place to start if one is looking to understand anything that happens in life, public or private. So, we follow the money; you won’t believe what we have found. Be patient, we’re getting there; give me some time to sort out my thought.

Many companies (telephone, technology, security, encryption, etc.) including Apple have been helping the government monitor activities of suspected terrorists for a very longtime, a partnership (government and private corporations) which has strengthened after the 9/11 attack on U.S. soil. It should not come as a surprise to learn that American citizens are occasionally spied on. Whistle blower Edward Snowden is currently in Russia in what seems a permanent vacation after exposing the depth of surveillance performed by the US government on Americans. He is the most wanted man in the National Security circle.

So, the marketing geniuses at Apple saw the dilemma FBI is in as a one lifetime opportunity to tell the world that the iPhone is the safest means of communication out there; not even FBI, a government entity with unlimited resources, can access the information inside the iPhone. Had Apple simply helped FBI retrieve the information (as it has done in the past), it would have been just that. No one would know about it, no fanfare but Apple would get absolutely nothing for helping (that’s the way our government defines partnership but it’s another story). However, Apple’s refusal to help this time, coupled with a legitimate concern (to all) such as privacy are the perfect recipe for a marketing campaign no amount of money could achieve. The iPhone is now known across the globe as the safest, most impenetrable gadgets around. Free worldwide marketing for iPhone, courtesy of privacy issue. Right about now, Apple should be ramping up manufacturing of iPhones; demand for the device will certainly increase. The partnership is finally paying off. The marketing geniuses at Apple must be celebrating, silently of course. They wouldn’t want to be caught or recorded saying something that would invalidate Tim’s concerns. Boy do I have a lot of balls accusing Tim of trying to profit from such an important issue!

Most unfortunately, Tim has set the fight on a course which can only be resolved through the process which exists in our judicial system. That is fine but I do pray every passing day that some serious tragedies similar to or worse than the San Bernardino, CA shooting does not happen while Mr. Cook is taking the country in a privacy ride.

If you survey anyone in the country, anyone in the world for that matter, there is not a single individual who would find it okay not to have privacy. But most everyone would also choose security, privacy if possible. In his “letter of refusal” to help FBI, Mr. Cook deplores the San Bernardino tragedy but failed short to do what could prevent another one.

Action speaks louder than words; Mr. Cook is only talking at this moment. We, citizens of the United States, need to urge Mr. Cook to help FBI prevent another tragedy. Then and only then can we hold the government responsible if security is lacking. Today, Mr. Cook is content to have the hands which could prevent another tragedy tied; it makes good marketing and it’s good for business.

For the sake of us all, for our safety I do pray that other plots are not hidden on the phone Mr. Cook refuses to unlock. To be a citizen requires sacrifice; to give up a little bit of your privacy so that the rest of us can be safe is noble. To pretend you are defending privacy all the while leaving the rest of us exposed to terrorism is un-American.

What do you have to hide anyway?

Answer this 2-questions survey to express how you feel about it:


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