Can Security Take Precedence Over Civil Rights?


It is one of the most watched and waited for legal battles in the United States as of now. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has asked Apple Industries to provide a ‘back door’ entry into an IPhone used by the culprits in the said case.

The background of this legal battle started in December when two individuals Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, were involved in a shootout, killing 14 people in San Bernardino county of California. Since the two individuals involved in the shootout were later eliminated by the police, FBI now needs the access to the Apple Iphone used by the couple which cannot be opened without a passcode.


Technically, the phone gets locked if a person types in the wrong passcodes more than a fixed number of times. In this scenario, the phone can only be restored which leads to erasing of all data within its memory. In the particular case, the only way for F.B.I to get data from the specific Iphone used by the attackers is by using a special kind of operating system made by the Apple Company. Consequently, United States Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym has asked Apple to provide “reasonable technical assistance” to investigators so that they can find the data relevant for further investigation in the case, bypassing the auto erase function in the phone.

However, Tim Cook, the C.E.O of the company has denied this request of the court arguing that it will put their customer data at risk of Hackers and Cyber criminals. Further, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has cautioned that this action would lead to ‘troubling precedent’. In future, the authorities can ask for more information, say from Facebook about personal details of its users.

For the company, it is a troubling order as it fringes on the faith of their customers. Their personal liberty is at stake as they have no surety of the protection of their personal data like files, photographs etc. Earlier, we had seen how very personal pictures of certain celebrities were leaked in public by hackers.

We have also seen how US authorities have done wide spread spying and snooping of key leaders across the globe. The PRISM program by NSA and revelations by Edward Snowden are a testimony to this argument.

If Apple accepts the court decision, are we giving the law enforcement agencies a weapon to stalk and prod in our lives?

In India, a similar debate has been going on ever since the Aadhar card was launched. The security agencies in India have requested for sharing the information in Aadhar in order to nab criminals and ease investigation. Though, the Supreme Court has asked the regulatory authority of Aadhar not to share information without consent of the card holder. However, a decision in favour of F.B.I can set a precedence for authorities at home for a reconsideration on the issue.

Right to privacy is now becoming one of the most crucial right of citizens in this globalised world. The value of individualism and self-realisation has intensified the demand for protection of this right.

However, at the same time, the security of nationals is equally important, especially when terrorist organisations across the world are using technology as means to advance their views and recruit potential followers.

However, in the end, the most important question is- where to draw the fine line between privacy and security?

Nishant Kumar

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The Viewspaper