The Apple / FBI Rabbit Hole Is Deep

Yesterday I wrote about getting stuck in an hour long reading loop on the Apple / FBI situation. As much as I didn’t want it to happen again today, it did. More on that in a minute.

But first, I want to encourage you to go watch the movie Race which is the story of Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It was superb and the double entendre of the title played out for a full two hours as the movie made us think hard about race in America in the 1930s and what was happening in Nazi Germany at the same time. I also thought the acting by the primary characters, including Stephan James (Jesse Owens), Jason Sudeikis (Larry Sanders – Owens coach), and Barnaby Metschurat (Joseph Goebbels – Nazi propaganda minister) was incredible.  Metschurat was a special bonus – he brought an extremely uncomfortable feeling of deep menace to every scene he is in.

At the end of the movie, the entire theater clapped (that doesn’t happen very often.) As Amy and I walked to our car, we commented that while we’ve made a lot of progress since 1936, we’ve got a very long way to go. On our way home, we talked about current events against a backdrop of 1936 racism in America and a systemic racism in preparation for a genocide in Nazi Germany. I read the NPR review of Race this morning after seeing the movie and agreed with everything in it.

This morning, as I was going through my morning reading stuff online, I fell down the FBI / Apple rabbit hole again. It’s interesting how the substantive analysis is improving every day, and I finally feel like I have my mind around the technical issue, the mistakes the government already made that prevented it from getting the data it wanted, Apple’s consistent and appropriate supportive behavior with law enforcement up to this point, the government overreach that is now happening, and the correctness of Apple’s position. In other words, nothing has changed in my opinion that Apple is in the right in this situation, but I can now explain it a lot more clearly.

If you want to spend time in the rabbit hole with me (I’ve set up a couch, have poured some drinks, and have nice music playing down here), here are some things to read.

As humans, I think it’s important to remember that the TechnoCore is paying attention to this and watching everything we do. Even if they are looking back at us from the future, what we are doing now matters.

  • iuliana schraut

    What I love most about the company is that they care about their people. By “their people” I mean both employees and customers. I know Tim’s stance on this is simply because he wants to ensure the security of people who own Apple products. So many people already have concerns about security, so Tim wants to ensure they can trust Apple. Here is Tim’s open letter:

  • mattvanhorn

    I don’t think the government has made “mistakes” in this case. I think they very deliberately chose this as an opportunity to set precedent, and use fears of terrorism to pressure Apple into providing them the backdoor they cannot get otherwise. There is likely nothing of value on that phone, so if they lose, they lose nothing. On the other hand, if they win, their surveillance powers are greatly expanded. Plus, the “Apple sides w/ terrorist” angle brings public pressure (from the marching morons brigade, but still…).
    See here for more:

    I really admire Apple, and Tim Cook in particular, for standing up to this, especially when other companies fold to pressure so easily.

    • The government mistake was that someone changed the password on his account (sounds like at his office) which caused his iPhone not to automatically back up. If they hadn’t done this (after they had possession of the phone) it’d be likely the case that the government would have all the data.

      Several of the articles listed do a really nice job explaining this and why Apple is just now revealing this.

      Zdziarski’s stuff is really interesting. I thought this one was really helpful also –

      And yes – I agree they are being very deliberate now with their strategy in an effort to set precedent. Which is the very dangerous part of it.

      • bradcottel

        Thanks for all the great links–I’ve gone down the rabbit hole way too often over the past few days myself, but it’s clearly an important issue! I think the EFF story is the best at laying out all the issues, and Zdziarski’s work is great too, for some of the more legal technical issues.

        Btw, it looks like the FBI was at fault–not his workplace–for the iCloud password change too, according to the official San Bernardino County twitter account:

        • Good catch on the twitter link to the reference that the FBI asked them to change the password.

    • I don’t think that is the case. Not because it isn’t possible but because the way they have gone about it is so crass and heavy handed that it is hard to imagine that this is the best they could do if they really wanted to set such a precedent. Let’s bear in mind that the government has plenty of law at its disposal, that has been used by NSA, to not only force companies to take unpalatable actions but to gag them with extreme prejudice. This looks to me more like FBI blundering than the kind of sophisticated operations NSA was running. Indeed, for all we know, NSA may have already put a backdoor into the latest versions of iOS.

  • Thank you for both the Race reco and the Apple vs. FBI update, Brad.

    You have beeen my source of truth on the Apple FBI thing so far!

  • Manish Porwal

    Hello, So Nice post and it seems to be very useful information for all.