Mark Cuban’s Big Idea to End the Apple Encryption Battle
The FBI is pressuring Apple to help the agency bypass the iPhone’s security features to unlock the San Bernardino terrorist’s smartphone. Here’s Mark Cuban’s thoughts on the matter.
Mark Cuban, entrepreneur and owner of the basketball team the Dallas Mavericks, says Apple is doing the right thing by refusing to build special software to help the FBIunlock an iPhone belonging to one of the terrorists who carried out the mass shooting in San Bernardino in 2015.
Using a 227-year-old law, the FBI is demanding that Apple write a new version of its iPhone operating system to help the agency bypass the encryption security features in the iPhone belonging to Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife Tashfeen Malik shot and killed 14 people at a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino on Dec. 2. But Apple has refused to build the backdoor, explaining in a letter released to the public this week that the new iOS program could have disastrous effects on the privacy of every iPhone user.
In a blog post, Cuban writes that if Apple complies with the FBI’s demands it could start rolling down a “slippery slope of lost privacy.” The FBI says it just wants a one-off program to decrypt the locked iPhone, but Apple says once the ability to decrypt an iPhone is created it could be used to unlock any iPhone user’s phone–effectively opening a Pandora’s box that could never be closed.
Cuban says the potential for abuse could threaten the privacy millions of people.
“Every tool that protects our privacy and liberties against oppression, tyranny, madmen and worse can often be used to take those very precious rights from us. But like we protect our 2nd Amendment Right [sic], we must not let some of the negatives stand in the way of all the positives. We must stand up for our rights to free speech and liberty,” Cuban writes.
The major sticking point is that no law exists that would compel a company to write software to crack its own encrypted software, so the FBI is using the All Writs Act of 1789, which George Washington signed during the creation of the federal court system. The Act is a vague catch-all that empowers courts to issue orders even though a law doesn’t exist yet.
Apple is framing the FBI’s use of the law as a dangerous precedent, reminiscent of the NSA’s mass surveillance program revealed by Edward Snowden.
“If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data,” Tim Cook wrote in a customer letter. “The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”
But Cuban has an answer. Cuban admits he is not one to propose more laws, but he says the All Writs Act is dangerously vague and could lead to the wholesale loss of our nation’s privacy. His answer is to create a new law specifically tailored to this unique situation, which was created by the fact that technology moves faster than law. Check out Cuban’s proposed law below:
“A company can only be compelled to remove any type of security or encryption from a smartphone or tablet, and only a smartphone or tablet, under the following circumstances:
1. There has been an event, with casualties, that has beendeclared an Act of Terrorism
2. There is reason to believe that the smartphone was possessed by a participant in the Act of Terrorism.
3. The smartphone must have been on premise during the event.
4. The terrorist who was in possession of the smartphone or tablet must be deceased.”