What happened with the FBI iPhone case? -as of May2016
The issue was presented in the media as a gripping safety and civil rights topic, which could impact millions of people’s privacy. When the court case began, it was because the FBI government agency wanted help from the tech company Apple in order to crack the encryption on a specific iPhone which was owned by the terrorist responsible for the San Bernardino shooting (killing 14 and injuring 22).
Apple refused to help the FBI on the grounds that tech companies should not be forced to create operating systems with weak security features. If they did, it would set a dangerous precedent where the government is allowed to control and trample civil liberties.
The case was cancelled, however, because a mysterious 3rd party recommended a method to the FBI for cracking the phone without Apples help. The public might interpret this news as a strong indicator that the incident might soon be near its end. But soon after the successful crack, the topic was back in the news, as the FBI promised to use their new ‘cracking method’ to help other agencies crack other phones. Two other cases from federal and justice departments have risen from the ashes of the closed-San Bernardino case, to ask the FBI to crack phones containing non-vital evidence from lesser crimes. Seemly the agencies are just trying to create waves to push the issue to the lawmakers, so that legislation can be made to force the tech companies to create more hackable systems (or at least force the tech companies to retain ‘encryption keys’).
This new development could be interpreted as ‘the government has located a MASSIVE security flaw with our phones security and plans on using it’. Several news outlets have published concerns about the issue, and presented the encryption topic as: If the FBI can hack the phone, then so can hackers, and we’re all at risk. By Not telling the public or Apple about the flaw in the security system, then the FBI is putting the public safety at risk.
Conceptually, the main focus has always been about how much access law enforcement should have to encrypted devices, and how tech companies should balance security issues with user privacy. Now all the public can do is wait to see IF the lawmakers decide that government accessibility is more important than security and privacy.
Analyzing the FBI vs. iPhone incident with Key Communication Concepts
As a narrative, the case was reported in the news with the public in mind. All the key points tied back into how the results would impact the public. If the government officials were more accommodating to news interviews (in the same way that the tech CEOs spoke to the press), then the point of view might have been more equally represented. For the purpose of the narrative analysis, we were fortunate enough that the court case itself came to a close during the blogging month, so that we can see the whole story arch. More characters were been added as the story progressed. It’s no longer just the FBI and Apple, it’s now involving several branches of government, other court cases, other encrypted phones, lawmakers, as well as the general public.
As a culture, Americans want to maintain their Rights and Freedoms. The American Ideology places high values on those personal freedoms. Even if it’s all an illusion, it’s still what Americans believe. Culturally, we are willing to fight to defend it, on all levels. As a genre, the FBI iPhone story was a typical civil rights conflict, a competition supremacy story. The topics that kept reoccurring in the news were about civil liberties and the publics privacy. Everything in the news signifies a cultural battle between right and wrong. The binary code of this incident isn’t as simple as ‘good vs. evil’, it’s more like ‘the authoritative vs. the industrial’, or ‘the government vs. private industry’.
The power struggle displayed in the news is a power-code. Power makes things happen. This is a ‘competition’ story that we are all familiar with. The public can see this ‘power-code’ unravel with the extreme lengths that the two main characters have gone to in order to maintain the upper hand. The financial investments they’ve both made into blocking the competition from making progress. This article (http://thenextweb.com/insider/2016/04/21/fbi-spent-more-than-a-million-dollars-to-crack-san-bernardino-iphone-and-found-nothing/) claims that the FBI has spent more than 1million dollars on cracking the iPhones encryptions, and found nothing. So it would seem that the FBI is now changing strategies to fight the tech companies themselves, in order to force them into submission. The FBI leaders have been presented in the media as incompetent, totally inept in regards to technology process and protocol. The Tech industry has been presented as concerned for public safety, and therefor appears to be fighting for civil liberties.
These days, mass media uses digital modalities to communicate with the public, which has increased the speed in which people can react to news, but also dampens the intensity that people feel for it. Technology had changed how people get the news, a landmark article about Security will most likely appear on the social media news feed, right next to totally irrelevant comedic material. People are only willing to see real news for a moment before scrolling past. The news outlets are constantly mediating new information regarding changes in the situation, but it has already faded from the public’s interest, as they scroll-on to the next topic.
The overall interpretation of all the issue, is that the Authorities want unlimited access to encrypted data, and have to force their agenda into Law, in order to handicap the tech industries to accommodate their demands. As we try to find the Meaning in order to make sense of the situation, it’s important to remember that these events could mean different things to different people. The 1 San Bernardino phone from the Original court case is now a tangible representation of all threats to tech security. Conceptual ideas, like the ideas of safety or freedom, are intangible, and the public could be tricked into thinking that it exists, when it doesn’t.