The Debate at the Heart of the Digital Age

Today we filed an Amicus Brief in support of Apple. You can read the full brief below as well as a blog from our Chief Information Security Officer.

As we've all seen by now, last week the US Government made an unprecedented request to Apple: help create software to bypass the iPhone's self-destruct capabilities, thus weakening the security protections its customers (consumers, businesses, and governments) have come to trust and rely on.

The horrible and saddening events surrounding the phone, and the potentially important information the device may contain, undoubtedly weighs on everyone involved in this situation. Law enforcement especially has an incredibly difficult task ahead, and one that only gets more complicated as we settle into the digital age.

As individuals and businesses increasingly rely on digital platforms to communicate, collaborate, and transact, the trust we put into modern technology is becoming one of the most important drivers of our future economic growth, shared prosperity, and societal progress. Modern platforms are powering innovation and gains in productivity with profound impacts on people's lives. Just one category of technology, cloud computing, for example, is now powering major medical discoveries, delivering immediate patient care anywhere, helping startups launch on an unparalleled scale, and serving as the primary means for how businesses collaborate globally.

More than anything else, what these advances all rely on is our collective trust in the internet, the devices we carry, and the services that connect us all together. In the digital age, we expect our technology to work across boundaries (physical and virtual) unencumbered, as well as keep us secure and safe.

Anything the technology industry or governments do to break this trust or advantage one court system over another could create severe consequences for how these tools are leveraged in the future. This is the real issue at the heart of this debate, and one that requires a far more nuanced approach as we establish new laws and create precedents for decades to come.

Last year, Mike McConnell and Michael Chertoff, the former Director of the National Security Agency and former Secretary of Homeland Security, respectively, wrote that technology vendors being required to create duplicate encryption keys -- or “backdoors” -- would lead to other countries requiring the same level of access (creating untold international implications), significantly weakening the protection of our personal privacy and business information, and simply forcing bad actors to move to other more secure platforms.

They concluded, "We believe that the greater public good is a secure communications infrastructure protected by ubiquitous encryption at the device, server and enterprise level without building in means for government monitoring."

This is an incredibly complex topic. It's one that will be active for years to come, and can only be resolved through collaboration between multiple stakeholders across government, the technology industry, consumer groups, and more. But ultimately, when balancing the various parties’ interests, it should become evidently clear that more security, not less, is the key to maintaining the trust that sits at the center of our digital age. Without it, there's simply no way to ensure that the internet and technology -- and their growing economic impact -- will continue to flourish.

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