Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Privacy vs. Life and the “Dilemma” of Apple

The news is that the federal government has compelled Apple to break their inscription that ensures the privacy of Iphone users. Apple is refusing.

Which reminds me that civil disobedience isn’t what it used to be.

But I digress.

Who’s right? Apple or the government?

Let me pose a thought experiment: Let’s say that someone has kidnapped your child and hidden her somewhere. And let’s say that the police surrounded the kidnapper who, after a standoff, killed himself. The police break down the door and find only the kidnapper’s dead body and an Iphone that has been secured which the police have reason to believe contains data that reveal the whereabouts of your child. There is no one else that is suspected of having any information that could lead to your daughter. In the meantime, you don’t know if she is hurt, if she is being raped by accomplices, if she is unconscious and bleeding out. You don’t know anything, but the Iphone may have some clues.

Do you believe that Apple should refuse to provide a means to break the encryption?

If your answer “Yes, Apple should refuse,” I question your sanity; I question your humanity; I question your parenting skills and your heart.

What does it say about a person who would sacrifice the life of his or her own child in order to protect Iphone encryption?

I would suggest it says a lot, and none of it very good. In fact, if you believe that, I would keep it to yourself so no one else finds out how calloused you are towards life, particularly of your own family?

Strong words? Yes. So tell me why I am wrong. Explain to me why Iphone encryption is of greater importance than life.

In the current case, the phone belongs to one of the San Bernadino shooters who killed fourteen people and wounded twenty-two more. The phone could provide information as to other plans for mass murder, or provide information as to other people involved in terrorism plots.

Now, in case I have been too subtle, I will go ahead and put my cards right out on the table: I am of the mind that life is more important than privacy of an Iphone using criminal who is endangering the lives of others. I cannot think of a good reason that Apple should refuse provide to the government the means by which to break the encryption. I have seen a lot of handwringing and fearmongering about it. But rational arguments? I haven’t seen any of those yet. And I can’t imagine what rational argument there is.

The government has a long history of being to perform, with legal approval, reasonable searches and seizures. It was written right into the Constitution that all states agreed to to join the union. And it seems entirely reasonably (no pun intended) that such searches fit that category.

Such searches are reasonable, based on the facts as known at the time. They are not guarantees of success. They are not without danger.

Sure, a government might hatch a pretense of an argument that can unreasonably invade the privacy of its citizens. It already happens. It’s not new. It’s not good. But it’s rare.

I believe the use of such encryption breaking ability should be used as it is in any other investigation—with a demonstrable probable cause approved by a dispassionate judge and a limited scope of searching. It’s not a ticket to an open-ended fishing expedition.

Those who say that Apple should refuse may be endangering the lives of others. Notice, I said “may be.”

Let’s pose another thought experiment: Let’s say that, God forbid, there is another terrorist attack which kills a dozen or so people, and wounds another two dozen. In the aftermath, it is discovered that the new terrorists had connections to the San Bernadino shooters, connections that would have have been uncovered with access to the Iphone. Such access would have provided information that could have stopped the shootings.

Does that change your mind?

What if one of those dozen fatalities is your spouse? Or your parent? Or your child? Or your neighbor?

Does that change your mind?

It shouldn’t take a close friend dying to make us think about this.

If we are pro-life, then let’s be pro-life all the way. Let’s not be pro-life after we are pro-privacy. That was the basis of Roe v. Wade—that a right to privacy supercedes whatever life may be extinguished in the meantime. In other words, your privacy with your doctor was more important than your child.

And that’s why the initial thought experiment is not far off from reality. It’s just an Iphone instead of a doctor.

I understand privacy concerns. I am not wild about the government, or anyone else for that matter, rifling through my phone or my computer. I would be mortified for people in authority to find out how boring my life actually is. I would prefer to keep the sad state of my existence to myself.

But frankly, I find the right to life more important.

Ben Franklin is reported to have said that those who give up freedom for security deserve neither. It may be that that those who refuse to give up some freedom for some security shall soon have neither.

I think many Christians—evangelical, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians—have bought into the God of America. That our constitution is sacrosanct, and that our rights to certain things go hand in hand with the Bible, and may, in fact, go ahead of the Bible.

America isn’t God’s chosen people. And the Constitution didn’t come by divine inspiration.

Yes, the government may one day decide to outlaw Christianity. But if it take a violation of my privacy to find me guilty, I have bigger problems than constitutional ones.

My friends, let me urge us to take life seriously. If we are going to be pro-life, let’s be pro-life even it means giving up something else.