Privacy vs. Security

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Recent court orders demanding that Apple Inc. help the U.S. government unlock the encrypted iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters has raised a key question that is dividing citizens throughout our nation. Should the right to privacy be sacrificed in the name of national security?

A Feb. 17 Reuter’s article entitled “Privacy vs security at heart of Apple phone decrypt order” examines each of the opposing view points. On one side of the argument, law enforcement maintains that Apple’s cooperation in providing the San Bernardino shooter’s decrypted cell phone information is vital to the maintenance of public safety. They point out that the cell phone in question may provide crucial information detailing the preparation of the attack that took place on Dec. 2, 2015 and may also provide information about potential future attacks.

On the other side, privacy rights activists point out that privacy is a fundamental right that belongs to all American citizens. Apple contends that the sharing of their encryption methods creates both personal and internet security risks that could potentially compromise the online safety and privacy of its customers as well as the internet connected public.

Personally, I can see both sides of the argument. Public safety is a noble pursuit and we as a society should make a strong effort to preserve human life. Yet, if we subscribe to the notion that privacy is to be sacrificed for the sake of potentially preventing a crime then that rationale would provide that we should also sacrifice our personal freedom for the same pursuit, as no crimes would ever have the potential of being committed if we were all in chains.

As we ponder this issue, we must ask ourselves, to what extent are we willing to sacrifice? What information should be kept a matter of personal privacy and what information should be made available for public and governmental scrutiny? If our fears and safety concerns drive us to submit this right to privacy, what rights might we be convinced to submit in the future?

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