What do a murder victim from the South, an underpaid factory worker from China, and someone like myself have in common? The iPhone. Earlier this week, Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an open letter to their customers decrying the malevolent request from the United States government who “asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.” In Cook’s own words, creating this backdoor would “expose its customers to greater risk of attack” from identity thieves, hacktivist groups, and in turn, every kind of criminals in between.
Apple, by releasing this statement to its consumers, is launching an all-out PR campaign to establish that they are fighting the government to protect your privacy — the privacy of its consumers. But just because they say it doesn’t make it true. What has to be kept in mind is that Apple is a multinational, multi-billion-dollar company first and foremost. Currently, Apple is trying to pose as a champion of civil liberties by resisting the government’s request for aid, but you shouldn’t believe them. Remember, this is a transnational company with transnational sales. If Apple is perceived as too close to American officials, they could see sales drop as consumers stop buying devices they think are insecure. China, India, Pakistan, Iran, and Russia are all countries on the CIA’s shortlist, but our European friends Germany and France were outraged at being spied-on as well. That’s why Apple has employed end-to-end encryption since 2012, because they wanted to cash in on the Edward Snowden controversy and build a reputation as a company that protects its customer’s privacy.
But Apple really isn’t as virtuous as they claim to be. By now, it is pretty common knowledge that Apple treats its workers, well, badly. A report released by China Labor Watch, a human rights group based in the United States, detailed how working conditions really haven’t gotten better for factory workers since labor abuse revelations in 2012. Apple is a for-profit company, not a champion for privacy rights.
Furthermore, FBI Director James Comey said during congressional hearings that “a woman was murdered in Louisiana last summer, eight months pregnant, killed, no clues as to who did it, except her phone is there when she’s found killed. They couldn’t open it, still can’t open it. So the case remains unsolved.” Why can’t law enforcement officers open the phone? Because Apple won’t help with the case, citing the same “security concerns” they are now. Yet Apple’s concern for their customer’s privacy didn’t seem to matter in nearly seventy other cases where they previously complied with similar government requests. Law enforcement agents had warrants to search the phone, and court orders were given to Apple to provide assistance in unlocking the phones in the murder case, just as they were in those seventy other cases. But Apple is not in the business of solving crimes. They’re in the business of selling phones.
What it ultimately comes down to is this: we don’t know about everything that happened to cause San Bernardino. Getting inside of an iPhone that has information helpful to uncover those events shouldn’t have to be difficult just because Apple doesn’t want to ruin its reputation. It’s about one iPhone, not all iPhone’s, but Apple is content in misleading the public otherwise. Apple is a for-profit company, not some champion for privacy rights, and they are cashing in on the privacy fad.