The battle between Apple and the FBI over whether the former can be forced to create a backdoor of sorts that would allow the latter access to an iPhone that it has in its possession is one that will rumble on for some time. Currently, over 40 companies have have filed an amicus brief in support of Apple’s stance that it will not do as ordered by the courts, and one of them happens to be Lavabit.
If the name rings a bell with you that’s because Lavabit was the company that shut its doors rather than comply with a similar order to hand its encryption keys over to the authorities. Labavit, at the time, ran an encrypted email service that law enforcement wanted access to. Lavabit founder Ladar Levison refused and was found to be in contempt of court for his efforts. Now, Levison is warning that if the FBI wins out and Apple is forced to comply with government’s wishes, there may be wide reaching implications for both iPhone users security and companies in general.
Levison believes that should the FBI be victorious, some users may hold off running software updates for fear that they include backdoors into their data.
If the government is successful, however, many consumers may not be as trustful of these updates because of a fear (actual or imagined) that the updates will contain malware to provide a backdoor into the data on their iPhones. The result is that fewer people will automatically accept the automatic updates and the overall security of iPhones across the country will suffer.
While that scenario is worrying in that it may cause iPhones to be left susceptible to attacks due to users’ refusal to accept software updates that plug security holes, Levison also warns that technology companies may leave the United States in search of a new home that better protects the privacy of the companies in question, as well as the customers that they serve.
Such precedence would likely result in many businesses moving their operations offshore, therefore, making it more difficult for law enforcement to obtain even ordinary assistance from such companies.
There is already evidence that some companies, including startups, are preferring to open offices in European countries rather than the States and that trend is one that could increase if the FBI is allowed to bully Apple into opening the iPhone for the FBI.
This is a story that undoubtedly has long reaching ripples that could create situations we haven’t even thought of yet. At this point, we don’t know how things will pan out, but one thing is for sure, neither Apple nor the FBI will be the same when this is over.
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