If I murdered a few of my neighbors and hid their bodies in my basement, should I be able to invoke my right to privacy to prevent the police from searching my home?
If I was laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel, could I invoke my right to privacy to keep police from looking at my bank records?
The obvious answer to these questions is a very reasonable “No.”
When there is probable cause to suspect that a crime has been committed, police agencies can obtain search warrants from a judge and investigate criminal activity.
This is common sense. We all understand that law enforcement needs access to personal property or records during the course of a criminal investigation. A search warrant must first be obtained, and this is what protects our liberties from “unreasonable” search or seizure.
I am not worried about police invading the privacy of my home or my bank account, because I have committed no crimes. They have no probable cause to search my stuff. They cannot get into any of my stuff without a warrant.
(Yes, I know mistakes happen and sometimes innocent people get targeted. But we are discussing the rule here, not the exceptions.)
This being the case, why is Apple CEO Tim Cook freaking out because the FBI wants to get into the iPhone used by the terrorists in the San Bernardino attacks?
As the Washington Post reported on March 3, 2016:
The government is seeking to unlock an iPhone 5c used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of two shooters in the attack that killed 14 people. Last month, a magistrate judge in California issued an order directing Apple to write software that would disable a feature that deletes the data on the phone after 10 incorrect tries at entering a password. The bureau wants to try to crack the password without risking data deletion.
If we understand the necessity of allowing police to obtain warrants to invade private homes, private bank accounts, and tap into land-line communications when they have probable cause to suspect that a crime has occurred, what possible rationale exists to prevent a search of an iPhone that may have been used in commission of a crime?
Apple is proud of its products, and rightfully so. But there is no reason for an iPhone to be the unique untouchable item in a person’s possession that is beyond the reach of the law.
I get the Fourth Amendment concerns. I am a big Bill of Rights guy. But we are not talking about “unreasonable” search and seizure here (though I could go on a tirade about asset forfeiture laws, but that’s a topic for another post.)
We are simply talking about criminal investigators having the same opportunity to search a suspect’s phone as they do to search a home, a car, or a bank account.
Unless you are under investigation for criminal activity, your phone records are just as secure as anything else in your life.
If Apple somehow prevails in this court battle and is able to keep their iPhones locked up, they will soon be selling the most popular phones in the world for terrorists and criminals. A secure form of communication that cannot ever be accessed by police agencies is every bad guy’s dream.
Apple will have created a whole new market for itself: protecting information for the world’s criminal class.
Get over yourself, Mr. Cook. Apple is a special company, but it is not above the law.
Do the right thing and give the FBI the help they need in tracking down the associates of the terrorists who slaughtered 14 innocent victims in San Bernardino.