iPhone Encryption Poll Shows Weak Support for Privacy
There are a lot of privacy activists who want to canonize Tim Cook for his open letter refusing to crack an iPhone for the FBI. This set off a war of words in the press, roughly mirror the discussion of privacy in the US post Snowden. While obviously it makes sense for Apple to try and protect itself, it does stand to gain from a new reputation as a bastion of privacy.
Ben Thompson probably has the best breakdown of the whole situation. One I think tries to actually find the nuance. Of course the argument that it’s just this one extraordinary case didn’t hold up long, as the Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI wants access to 12 additional devices.
I don’t think that we need another think piece about what is or isn’t possible technically, or even what the moral thing to do is. As linked in Thompson’s article, a slight majority of Americans support he FBI. Their research makes clear that the support cross party lines, as well as age demographics. No matter how you break it down, we have a slim majority of people who don’t think that privacy is a big deal.
It doesn’t hurt that the FBI is using a very high profile case to make this demand. They know that emotions run high, and they can make an appeal to the public’s fear and grief to bolster support. Allowing them to address those 12 other cases protected by the publics outrage about the San Bernardino case.
What would be more useful is to get people’s technical expertise. Education level is included in Pew’s breakdown, but that doesn’t guarantee an understanding of underlying tech. They did break down the numbers by the type of phone people owned, though that isn’t much of a signifier of technology knowledge any more. Considering that didn’t change the overall breakdown significantly, it may just be that we’re at an impasse.
Libertarians and other Civil Liberties activists could make this yet another battleground, but supporters of the FBI are scattered across both parties. That doesn’t mean that a coalition of privacy activists can’t band together as a bloc inside one of the parties, but that would mean this would need to be the top priority for a significant number of voters. However, without that I’m afraid that privacy will erode without the protection of invested voters and representatives.