Apple Says ‘No’ – The Threat to Data Security

Consider a world where your fundamental existence is enabled and underpinned by an array of connected devices and systems, and the totality of your life and virtually every aspect of what you do is reliant on these devices and systems.  Consider a future where you live in smart cities and environments and your future urban life is constructed from interacting digital systems that provide the core functionality for your every day common activities and behavior – such as how and what you buy via online shopping, or where you go using intelligent transport systems, or what services you consume – such as healthcare.  Consider your own home, digitally alive and connected to the ether of the Internet via your high-speed broadband and the laptop, tablet, and all your other screens through which you immerse yourself into the virtual world – your connected smart TV, the smartphone in your hand – without which you would cease to function, and the webcam looking at you right now from the top of your screen.  Now consider this – that every aspect of your digital life – your existence as a digital native, your entire digital footprint created through your interaction with devices and systems – what you buy, where you go (in reality and virtually), who you talk to, what you watch – and who’s watching you, plus a great deal more including your online banking might be accessible by cybercriminals and government agencies.  How would you feel?  Shocked, to say the least.

That world is, effectively, the world that we live in today and we are starting to live that future as we transform into digital citizens living in a connected environment – one where digital capital will grow as technologies and systems such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) proliferate and become a ubiquitous and seamless aspect of life.  Beyond the individual digital footprint, there’s also the aspect of Big Data – massive data sets that are generated as a consequence of interactions and which provide the basis for analytics and intelligence at a macro level.

Security is therefore key.  It’s one aspect that we expect and rely on to protect our digital assets and our digital lives.  Beyond the specific and significant technical aspects of implementation, it’s an enabler – it enables us to engage with and interact with the digital ecosystem with confidence, leveraging the full affordances of such a system to live contemporary lives without fear and constraint – in education, business, leisure & entertainment, healthcare, and across private and public sectors.

However, we face a challenge – that of the use of digital capital and infrastructure for nefarious purposes.  Security provides a cloak, and perhaps protection, for perpetrators of crime.  On one hand, the principle and practice of security and protection is central to current and evolving digital engagement.  On the other hand, it is this very aspect that can be employed to conduct illicit activities, with devastating impact.

So the question arises: should Governments be able to wield and exercise power that forces the hand of technology companies?  Should Governments be able to intervene and impose measures that create a potential negative disruptive impact on the technology landscape and threaten the fundamental principle and practice of data security?  Yesterday, Apple responded to this question with a ‘no’.  On the Apple website, Tim Cook stated that, “We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand. This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.”

And what is at stake?  Fundamentally, the right to privacy? Access to your entire digital DNA? A digital State where the imprint of your every action can be accessed? The creation of a back-door platform for cybercriminals to exploit all of this?  Maybe, and probably a lot more.

You can read the full statement from Apple here

Apple’s approach to privacy can be found here

 

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