As predictable the different positions harden, the matadors dig their feet into the ground. The Obama administration sides very clearly with the FBI, questioning the demands of the civil society. Apple, as leader of the tech pack, defends its rights with both tooth and nail against the claims of the administration.
But the standoff is less entertaining as it sounds. It reflects the ongoing tries to balance the rights of the civil society for privacy with the needs of the state to fulfil its purpose. About 50 years ago, the question would have been decided very easily in favour of the governmental claims. The stance of the tech companies reflects an evolution in the understanding of privacy. In this meanwhile fierce fight, the pendulum currently leans more to the civil society, backed by the customers of the techies which as citizens are not comfortable with the current situation. The latest exchange of naughty arguments was about the FBI”s assertions, Apple would measure differently while giving China access to iPhone data. This assertion was countered by the iPhone producer, it had agreed to store date from its Chinese customers on Chinese soil, but “never made user data, whether stored on the iPhone or in iCloud, more technologically accessible to any country’s government”.
All this sounds like a grudge match and misses the point: What is the best solution possible to meet both justified demands? A new dynamic equilibrium has to be figured out. This is not the task of some lonely decisions by courts and will take discourses, studies and last not least, new technologies which can fulfil both claims: the government’s requirements to do its job and the civil society’s demands for privacy.