FBI forcing Apple to weaken iOS security could endanger lives, warns UN HCR

[ This could represent a significant turning point in the relationship between government and technology companies. What do you think? ]

The legal tussle between Apple and the FBI over a locked iPhone, and the security weakening measures the security services want the iOS maker to take to help it extract data on the device, has now attracted comment from the UN’s commissioner for human rights.

Representatives for both sides of the Apple vs FBI argument were called to Congress earlier this week to give testimony in a hearing entitled “The Encryption Tightrope: Balancing Americans’ Security and Privacy” — which has led to some bizarre claims from the pro-unlocking camp as they seek to justify forcing Apple to create a less security version of iOS.

Weighing into the debate today on Apple’s side of the argument, with a robust public statement in support of encryption, the UNHCR’s Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein argues that privacy is a pre-requisite for security, and calls for clear red lines to protect personal data in the digital age.

The outcome of the Apple vs FBI case could have negative ramifications for the humans rights of people across the world if the FBI prevails in forcing Apple to weaken the security of iOS, he writes, warning that such a step could be “a gift to authoritarian regimes”.

“In order to address a security-related issue related to encryption in one case, the authorities risk unlocking a Pandora’s Box that could have extremely damaging implications for the human rights of many millions of people, including their physical and financial security,” says Al Hussein.

“I recognize this case is far from reaching a conclusion in the US courts, and urge all concerned to look not just at the merits of the case itself but also at its potential wider impact.”

The commissioner argues the case boils down to determining “where a key red line necessary to safeguard all of us from criminals and repression should be set” — countering the notion it is merely about unlocking one iPhone used in a terrorist incident, as the US government has tried to suggest.

Source: FBI forcing Apple to weaken iOS security could endanger lives, warns UNHCR | TechCrunch