Apple Should Stand Their Ground
Apple advocating that there is an inviolable right of privacy. Now there is no doubt that privacy is a fundamental human right (and one that is recognized in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and in other international and regional treaties); the Right to Privacy underpins human dignity and other key rights such as freedom of speech. The question is, to what extent should this right be protected (and is it an absolute right that overrules all other rights that might conflict with it?)
Facebook, Google and Twitter have come out in support of Tim Cook and Apple (one could almost overlook the fact that Google and Facebook give their own users very little in the way of privacy and use their users' information to deliver very targeted content!)
It does look like the right or privacy (in US Law anyway) is being aligned as being as inviolable as the Right to Freedom of Speech (although there are some limits to Freedom of Speech for things such as defamation) so it will be very interesting to see how this case develops
Apple Should Relent and Allow Access
Oliver Wendell Holmes summed up the delicate need to balance the rights of the individual (in this case the right to privacy) and the state when he said, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." In essence, a person has the right to do anything they wish that is legal but when their actions have an illegal impact on others (or could potentially have an impact in cases of inchoate offences - i.e. illegal acts which have yet to be committed, attempts to commit crimes, incitement to commit crimes, or conspiracy to commit crimes), this basic Utilitarian argument is that the State has a right and a responsibility to act to protect its citizens (protect the many against those few who might not follows the law).
Not all the tech companies and personalities are in absolute agreement with Apple, Bill Gates challenged the “backdoor” characterization of Apple’s Tim Cook which could be construed by some as Tim Cook trying to bring more of an emotional element to the argument (where non should exist).
What is the Answer
Now I personally have not made up my mind about this case and am still undecided (and I think more consideration of the issues will be needed before I can decide either way and this is a very complicated issue) but the Pew Research Center found that the FBI's perspective is slightly more popular with 51 per cent of those surveyed saying they felt Apple should unlock the phone, 38 per cent saying the company should not, with 11 per cent being undecided.
When talking to my students, about half were in favour of Apple complying and half thought Apple were absolutely correct to refuse to cooperate.
Below are a couple of videos that outline both of the opposing views:
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