Apple’s Standoff with the FBI: Will Consumer Privacy Prevail?

"According to Jeffrey Vagle, a lecturer in law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and executive director of the school’s Center for Technology, Innovation & Competition, the FBI’s request “seems innocuous.” It relates to one phone that didn’t even belong to the shooter but to his employer, and that employer has already granted the government access to search the phone, he noted.

However, “the problem is the legal precedent that such a decision might set in what the government is asking for — a sort of malware workaround provided by Apple to be installed on the phone so that they can unlock that phone,” said Vagle. “If that can be forced on Apple by the government, that same order could be forced on Google, or Facebook or Cisco — not just by the U.S. government, but by other governments who might also latch on to that same precedent.”

Andrea M. Matwyshyn, professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University, expanded on Schulman’s argument. A special backdoor weakens the security of the whole system and also raises consumer protection concerns, she said. “The reason technology companies are building stronger security features into their products is because identity theft is rampant, and consumers are worried about having their identities stolen,” she noted. “By strengthening security, we are preventing large categories of crime and helping combat that. So, it is a discussion about a new category of crime prevention versus another type of crime prevention.” Matwyshyn was formerly professor of legal studies and business ethics at Wharton."