By Laura Haight
You might have thought the FBI's ability to find a hacker able to crack the San Bernardino terrorists iPhone would mean you didn't have to hear anything else about encryption or back doors for awhile. Because, after all, as the agency said in countless interviews that it was "just this one phone!"
But many suspected that it would never be "just this one phone" and, unfortunately, that's proven to be true.
The FBI this week released information that the agency has been flooded with requests from law enforcement agencies seeking help to break into phones of all types that are believed to have evidence in ongoing criminal investigations. A separate survey of more than a dozen state and local law enforcement agencies put that number at more than 1000 requests in recent months.
And then on Friday, the Department of Justice said it would continue its legal battle to force Apple to assist in hacking an iPhone connected to a drug conspiracy case in New York City.
Wait, I'm sorry... A NYC drug case? Not a terrorist threatening the very fabric of American life?
There are a number of legal issues involved here, like whether or not the government had exhausted all other methods of obtaining the information before seeking to compel Apple to crack the phone. And whether or not Apple has the capability to extract the information on this phone rather than, as in the San Bernardino case, must create a way to break in that doesn't currently exist.
Nonetheless each one of these efforts creates a new legal precedent – a new bar a rung or two lower than the previous one under which all manner of security incursions will be permitted.
In the San Bernardino case, the FBI and DOJ used "terrorism" like a blunt instrument to beat us into philosophical submission. 'OK, we'll give up our privacy and security because if we don't, the terrorists win."
But now, here comes a New York City drug case (like we never had one of those before!). Of course, drugs are evil. They are killing our kids, addicting our teens, tearing at the fabric of families and communities. Still it is a far different problem than TERRORISM! And one not likely to be solved by busting a local crime ring. Another will pop up and overtake that territory before court adjourns.
And yet, here we are again, trying to force a technology company's to put another crack in its intentional security so we can break up a meth ring? What's next, the scourge of counterfeit New York Jets jerseys being sold out of a Olds 88 on the lower deck of the Brooklyn Bridge?
The battle between security and privacy is far from over. One thing we should know before we hit the OK button on giving up some of our privacy rights, is it is never "just this one phone!".