FBI iPhone hacking echoes larger privacy concerns

The FBI’s recent lawsuit against Apple brought to our attention the importance of maintaining consumer privacy in our growing technological culture. The FBI—while investigating the Dec. 2 shooting in San Bernardino, California—demanded that Apple allow the Bureau to hack the alleged shooter’s iPhone to obtain information. Apple released an inspiring public address refusing the demand and ensuring consumer privacy that eventually caused conflict with the federal government.

The FBI has since dropped the lawsuit because they obtained what they needed—they hacked the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone without any help from Apple. The FBI was able to override the iPhone's security system that locks the phone after a certain number of failed password inputs to allow an infinite number of login attempts. By getting through this software, the FBI said any phone could be hacked within 26 minutes.

Apple is desperate to understand how it was done, as it completely condemns their unwavering efforts to maintain the protection of personal information from government surveillance—or worse. Whether or not the FBI is legally—or morally—obligated to disclose their hacking methods, they still did it in the first place. Even if the FBI hired an underground hacker or figured it out by pure luck, they were able to do whatever they wanted to do even when the company in question was against it. This implies that privacy does not matter if our government is determined to get whatever information it wants.

In the San Bernardino case, there might actually be important information regarding the incident stored on the alleged shooter’s phone. A motive exists that aims to investigate and possibly prevent future violence and terrorism. It is uncertain, however, if the line between righteous and corrupt motives will be blurred in future situations where privacy is violated.

There is no way to completely ensure that future government hacking will not happen to everyday citizens. It is unfortunately difficult to go against powerful institutions in the United States such as the FBI, especially when those institutions have access to advanced technology and information. This case brings feelings of discomfort and paranoia as we can see that there is no definite way to protect our privacy and information from those who are determined enough to obtain it.