At a time when many of us are more aware than ever before of how private, or not, our lives and personal information are online, the ongoing battle between Apple and the FBI is setting up to be the digital fight of our times, with a huge amount at stake for all of us – so where do you stand?
At the risk of being accused of fence-sitting, it’s clear there is merit on both sides, so no easy answers – but that hasn’t stopped the tech world lining up, mostly to back Apple’s stance.
As advocates for a more private world, and greater responsibility and controls over personal data generally, it’s hugely welcoming to hear a company citing user privacy as a key factor in the huge decision to oppose a legal order.
Personal privacy, and the responsibility each of us has to help find, develop and limit other people’s impact on it, is a huge topic of our times. Companies are increasingly realising this too – and there is an increasing feel that a new balance will need to be struck, a finding of a middle ground that all can live with and feel is acceptable.
As well as Apple’s stand, Mozilla has just released a new video series with a similar message – that we all, as active web citizens, need to take a stand to stop privacy erosion impacting on our lives. And the first step towards that is knowing what is important to us, and what our battle lines are – which Apple has clearly both identified and drawn.
The flip side, of course, is that while we’re all for online privacy and security, its real-life counterparts have very real needs too, above and beyond those of their digital cousins. We all want ourselves, those we love and our communities and world generally to be a safe place, and technology has a huge part in making that happen. It is also vital that those in charge of protecting our real-life privacy and security have the tools they need to do so, and can ask for expert help when they are struggling. But what we need to find is the line where reasonable becomes overreach, and this is the essence of the current battle (and indeed the state of the personal data economy more generally).
As we increasingly seek (rightly) to take more control of our own data, to own it and use it for our purposes rather than having companies take and use it without our knowledge, these decisions become ones that we need to make our own minds up on, rather than delegate to others, because we all have a significant personal stake in how this plays out.
Of course, the courts will ultimately decide the outcome of Apple vs the FBI, but the ramifications and continued debate over what constitutes reasonable government access to private data will hopefully help set the internet community, as a whole and in time, on a path that the majority can support.