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Apple vs the US Government: Can anything good come out of it?

Apple has been drawn into a big battle with the US Government over the encryption debate and the refusal to help FBI. A spat that has a lot on stake for everyone.

First, a little backstory. The whole thing began a few months ago when politicians said they want even more privileges for the surveillance authorities. The tech companies said “no” and Apple’s CEO  Tim Cook was one of the most vocal about it. Then, earlier this month, the US court said Apple has to help the FBI in decrypting and accessing the iPhone 5c of one of the San Bernardino shooters. Apple refused.

That brought a hailstorm over the company and the whole issue quickly became one of the top debates in the US and quite a few other countries. Most tech companies, including Facebook, Google and Twitter claimed support for Apple. They say weakening the encryption is bad for everyone and mostly for the normal users and the business organizations. Some politicians also support the tech companies, but most are against that notion.

Apple though is not backing down. In an interview for ABC News Cook said his company has already helped the FBI with information and even volunteered engineers for further help. But the software for weakening the encryption the government wants Apple to write is essentially like “cancer” and it is something Apple would never want or even think to write. At the same time the state of Arizona claimed Apple is supporting terrorism and said it is stopping giving iPhones to state workers at least until the company helps the FBI. A Pew Research report says 51% of Americans also want Apple to help unlock the phone.

Cook replied that this is not a poll issue but a very specific case. “The thousands of emails I’ve received from people all over show me that they care. Even the people who don’t agree with us, agree that this issue should be discussed openly and not in a backroom somewhere”, Cook said. He added that his company’s first job is to protect its customers.

In the end, Cook added, that he is optimistic and thinks both sides will manage to find common ground and come up with a transparent solution that is good for everyone. “That’s what the US always does”, he adds. Cook also says he is prepared to walk the full distance until that day comes, though.

Even though the debate is still raging and actually is getting a bit too emotional, there is still promise that something good may come out of it. Apple is trying to maintain a sensible position and not to overreact like some politicians and organizations. If the company manages to steer the debate over to the actual topics and stays away from emotional labeling, then maybe we will finally get some actual solutions and be more clear on what the law enforcement agencies can and should do and when. For now, the latest word, according to the New York Times, is that Apple is already working on making its next iPhone even more difficult to crack.

Image credit: Flickr (CC) / iphonedigital