What Apple’s privacy battle means for retail
Apple’s refusal to help the FBI break into an iPhone used by one of the terrorists in December’s San Bernardino massacre has thrown a spotlight on the battle between privacy and national security in the digital age.
The dispute comes as retail deals with a steady stream of credit card hacks and trust issues hamper the industry’s use of consumer data to create personalized offers.
In an 1,100-word letter to customers, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, wrote that smartphones “store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.”
Apple contends that creating a “backdoor” around its encryption safeguards would make its phones more vulnerable to cyber attacks. The bigger issue is the “dangerous precedent” that could be set in complying with similar orders from authorities inside and outside the U.S. in future investigations.
Mr. Cook said the government “could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”
The Justice Department claims Apple has complied with similar requests in the past, that the request to rewrite code is one-off in nature, and that the order is no different than one for any search of a home or business. They charged Apple’s refusal is “based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy.”
The case addresses law enforcement’s frustrations over encryption tools overall.
While privacy advocates and some other tech giants cheered the stand, Apple may alienate consumers concerned about terrorism and be blamed for a future attack. Bringing back the privacy debate sparked by Edward Snowden, the case weighs what may be necessary to protect consumer data accessible in the digital age against what personal sacrifices may be required to protect citizens from terrorists and other dangers.
- A Message to Our Customers – Apple
- Battle Over San Bernardino Shooter’s iPhone Escalates – Bloomberg
- Tech industry slowly rallies behind Apple in iPhone fight – USA Today
- Apple Sees Value in Its Stand to Protect Security – The New York Times (tiered sub.)
- U.S. and Apple Dig In for Court Fight Over Encryption – The Wall Street Journal (sub. required)
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should retailers support Apple in its current dispute with the FBI? How might a ruling in the case affect retailers’ ability to make use of consumer data for marketing and personalization?