by Andrew McArthur
The world looks on with bated breath as the FBI and Apple discuss the access rights to the iPhone belonging to the San Bernardino killer Syed Farook. But the world isn’t interested in the injustice of another American killer being granted his rights to privacy, despite the lives he ruined.
If the FBI is granted access rights to Farook’s device, the integrity of smart technology would suddenly be thrown into question. If you follow the work of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, then it becomes clear that the security of most electronic communications has been compromised for a long time.
What’s important about the Farook case is how the authority is pushing it to be common practise to have access to smart technology. The privacy of individuals and competitiveness of businesses have been steadily eroded by government authorities across the western world, especially from over regulation and the ever-increasing costs that it brings.
Such compiled information often holds huge amounts of personal information, which in the hands of someone with malicious intentions could do a great deal of damage.
In the United Kingdom, the Draft Communications Data Bill (“Snoopers Charter”) has been proposed by the Home Secretary Theresa May, which would require internet service providers and mobile phone companies to maintain records of each user’s internet browsing activity. Such compiled information often holds huge amounts of personal information, which in the hands of someone with malicious intentions could do a great deal of damage.
Only 66% of the British population turned up to vote for the political parties during the elections in 2015, and only a fraction of this number actually supported the victorious party. This clearly demonstrates how little trust there is in the British Government. Most people who have had any dealings with the British police admit that their services never present adequate justification to look into someone’s life. Once they have the authority and access route, they will exploit for any advantage.
Apple has an issue with the FBI getting access to Farooq’s mobile phone which is not that of a breach of a customer’s privacy; it highlights a far more real and serious threat to the prosperity of the technology industry, and more specifically smart technology.
I recently attended a high-level business meeting in London, where I was overwhelmed by how much things had changed. The high-profile individuals at the meeting didn’t appear disoriented when they were asked by private security outside the reception hall to present all electronic and metal items before entering. After proceeding through the door which had a built-in metal detector, they were then presented with all the items except their mobile phone, watches and other electronic items. These were promptly placed into a security box which was then locked into holding cells behind the receptionist’s desk. The client’s given an access key and then advised that to access their phone they need only to leave the meeting room and present the key to the receptionist.
It quickly became apparent that I was unprepared and poorly equipped to participate in this meeting. Despite the participants’ ages ranging from their early twenties to mid-sixties, every single one of them had a well organised Filofax with a fully equipped diary, list of contacts, up to date financial records, latest correspondents’ letters, cheque books, and note pad. Not one participant reached for a smart phone or tablet during the entire meeting, and they all had copies of the meeting’s minutes, which the hosts rigorously stuck to.
Over tea and coffee provided by our hosts after the meeting, I had an enlightening conversation with a fellow guest. In his mid fifties and more grey hair than dark, he had successfully been a regulated independent financial advisor for decades, and run a joint business with his wife who was a chartered accountant. Not only did he totally agree with the protocols of the evening’s meeting, but for a while now he had been running his own advisory meetings in the same capacity. His clients expect and respect him for having complete control on how and where he stores their information. Moreover, the common consensus of those who lived before the smart technology age neither trust or use it in their day-to-day lives. “How do you know that the emails, telephone calls, and text messages are secure?” he said casually drinking his coffee and staring at me. “If I can’t physically lock it in a drawer, I immediately have my doubts, no matter how clever the computer geeks are. If I don’t understand and manage it then I shall not use it. It’s just good business!”.
So where does this leave the future for us who can’t remember a life without smart technology? Well, veterans may actually have a point. History tells us that authority corrupts individuals, and the more power they hold the more problems it causes for regular society.
Where Apple and the other technology giants should be concerned is a smart crunch. Like the financial crunch, where trust in the financial markets failed, in this case the trust in smart technology fails and an increasing proportion of society seeks alternative solutions to communication.
Where Apple and the other technology giants should be concerned is a smart crunch.
This will subsequently result in competitive business people no longer making conference calls or communicating by email. Alternatively they will communicate information face-to-face or by typed letter which would increase demand on transport capacities world-wide. Amazingly this change is beginning to happen already, as I have witnessed in London. A smart crunch is a very real threat as a consequence of the breakdown of privacy and security of individuals, and the technology companies know it.
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