WSJ: ‘Apple doesn’t deserve to be treated like a public enemy’

From the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal “The Case of Bill Barr vs. Apple” ($) in Wednesday’s paper:

Apple says it responded within hours to the FBI’s first request for data on Dec. 6, the day of the attack. It says it responded to six subsequent requests by providing information stored on its cloud servers, account information and transactional data for multiple accounts. The company says it didn’t learn until Jan. 6 of a second iPhone associated with the probe, and two days after that it received a subpoena.

Apple continues to cooperate, but what it won’t do is create special software to break into an iPhone so the FBI can obtain information stored on the device. Nor will it devise a “backdoor” for law enforcement. Mr. Barr says this refusal means that Apple and other American tech companies are subordinating national security to commercial interests by refusing to assist law enforcement.

Apple is no doubt looking out for its commercial interests, and privacy is one of its selling points. But its encryption and security protections also have significant social and public benefits. Encryption has become more important as individuals store and transmit more personal information on their phones—including bank accounts and health records—amid increasing cyber-espionage…

Mr. Barr’s job includes protecting Americans from terror attacks and criminal networks, and we sympathize with his concern that encryption could slow an investigation when minutes matter. But the answer is for Congress to work with him to forge a compromise that balances private and government interests. That’s what happened in 2018 when Congress created a process for law enforcement to obtain data stored on servers overseas.

In the meantime, Apple doesn’t deserve to be treated like a public enemy.

My take: This is one subject—perhaps the only one—on which I and Journal’s editorial board have always seen eye to eye.


  1. Bruce Oran said:

    The WSJ is absolutely correct! Mr. Barr is being short-sighted. Today’s national security interests could be tomorrow’s over-reach by a future totalitarian government. This is why it is so important for Apple to resist government bullying and instead encourage the legislative and executive branches of government to work together to formulate legislation that incorporates adequate individual protection along with the tools law enforcement might need to combat technology-assisted crime and terrorism.

    January 15, 2020
  2. John Butt said:

    It is utterly naive to think that totalitarian states do not already exist. iPhones are extremely likely to be present there, or be in the hands of a visiting President.

    January 15, 2020
  3. Jerry Doyle said:

    Tim Cook and Apple’s public relations need to push back continuously on the government’s demand. There will be a concerted and unified condemnation effort undertaken by the federal government, most notably by politicians (especially Congressional members sitting on the various national security and intelligence committees), law enforcement personnel and editors of conservative local community newspapers who will infer that Apple, the company, is siding with terrorists. A single letter from Tim Cook is not going to cause the issue to go away.

    In the firestorm between Apple and the FBI following the San Bernardino tragedy, the president called for a boycott against Apple at one of his campaign rallies. I do not see the president doing so this time because of his and Tim Cook’s close working relationship. Do not convince yourselves erroneously, though, that the vast majority of the public understands this critical issue as we understand it.

    The public is divided. We saw that division last time in various polls conducted. Apple and Tim Cook will need to take appropriate steps to educate the public fully in order to influence public opinion to have deeper empathy with Apple’s position on this issue.

    In the San Bernardino tragedy many of tech’s CEOs and other high profile tech officials weighed in heavily, voicing vigorous support for Tim Cook’s side of the issue. This time, those same CEO’s are silent. Where are they?

    Last time the NYT’s editorial board weighed in on Apple’s side. The NYT’s voice, though, is little to no influence for conservatives while the WSJ is a start.

    What Apple needs to do is educate public opinion on what is at stake: the data security of all law-abiding people. By having Apple capitulating to federal demands everyone’s civil liberties are more vulnerable. Americans today are more cognizant than ever that the government can, and will go, too far toward violating citizens’ privacy if Apple were to meet William Barr’s demands. Americans get it now more than ever before. Why? Because Americans now know that no longer is anything such as absolute personal privacy left remaining in our nation.

    January 15, 2020
  4. Martin Beutling said:

    Funny….before the US Government is going to force Apple to build backdoors into iOS to prevent crime, they should make their homework on gun-regulation….
    What do they always say: it’s not the gun that kills, but the individual who is pulling the trigger…. same goes for iPhones imho.

    January 16, 2020
  5. Fred Stein said:

    Thanks to Philip and the WSJ for spreading the word.

    The problem is boundaries. 1) If the FBI has access, how can we deny access to any other government agency overseas and in our country? 2) If we force back-doors for SmartPhones, won’t that be extended to all smart connected devices which include vital infrastructure and engineering workstations with trade secrets or even US military secrets? 3) The FBI has been hacked already. Apple, or any other company that creates backdoors, may be hacked.

    Backdoors make us more vulnerable. Serious bad actors can get encryption with or without Apple.

    January 16, 2020

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