Encryption and privacy concerns have been in the news a lot lately. Earlier this month, Apple received a court order to unlock an iPhone belonging to a suspect involved in the San Bernardino shooting incident on December, 2nd 2015. The order requests Apple and its team of software engineers to assist Federal agents in accessing the contents of the device in question (an encrypted iPhone 5C), which may contain information relevant to the FBI’s ongoing investigation into the shooting.
Afterwards, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook publicly stated that the government had overreached in their request, claiming that compliance with the court would have dire consequences for the privacy and security of its users. Cook also stated that the company would do everything within their power to oppose the order. Their hardline stance on the matter proved very popular within the tech community, with several prominent industry leaders rushing to support the company from Cupertino.
Despite Apple’s groundswell of support, not everyone in the tech industry is taking their same staunch position. BlackBerry, a company known in large part for its robust device security, recently shared some of their thoughts on the matter at this year’s Mobile World Congress. A company spokesperson stated that BlackBerry would continue to comply with legal requests for technical assistance (so long as they’re lawful) while still ensuring the privacy of its users. Specifically, the company fervently insists that it won’t be creating any “backdoors” that would grant third parties unimpeded access to their customers’ personal data.
BlackBerry’s statement touches on a much larger issue that the tech industry is currently grappling with. Apple, which forces full-disk encryption on all of its iPhone models, made it clear that they have, and will continue to assist the government in law enforcement matters so long as they aren’t willfully infringing upon the security of its users. Google (which echoed Apple’s position) implements their own security measures, requiring new devices running Android 6.0 Marshmallow to force encryption by default. Even BlackBerry, which doesn’t have Marshmallow yet, uses their own form of encryption in their latest flagship smartphone, the BlackBerry Priv. While these companies want to implement stronger, more robust security measures to protect their customers’ privacy, they don’t want to appear dismissive on matters of law enforcement and national security. As a result, they (and the rest of the tech industry) will have to walk a very fine line as the debate over encryption continues.