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Is privacy dead?


With so many people using iPhones in Bahrain, recent news out of America is worrying.

The FBI confirmed that it had accessed the iPhone of the dead San Bernardino gunman without Apple’s help, but the FBI vs Apple court case has left a sour taste.

Information on how the FBI broke into the phone is scarce: It has, in effect, been classified – which means we may never find out.

The legal tool used by the FBI was the All Writs Act, employed to push forward a demand for access in the earlier stages rather than resolve the paradox that has arisen as to how far a government can delve into privacy and citizen rights. The deeper question is: ‘Is our data safe and private?’ The former may be the case, but our privacy seems increasingly hard to hold on to in the digital age. I believe this will become a bigger issue for all citizens as they try to control their privacy better. A rise in personal data systems will become ever more critical in the fight to regain access and to control your data, whether for public or private purposes.

To some degree it has perpetuated the cyber war which is going on, with all sides seeking to find ways to break secure systems – which is no different from any other arms race for power. The evidence is that cyber threats are a growing issue – and this was a core part of the Apple case for not opening up the phone and giving scope to potentially greater weaknesses.

Industry reports that cyber threats are growing at an annual rate of 66 per cent and the PricewaterhouseCooper annual global state of information security survey for 2015 shows financial theft at more than 90pc annual growth. The issue now is whether this case, and its inconclusive outcome, has resolved anything or whether it has created a scenario where ‘if we can get round your defence then that’s OK’ is acceptable. 

This action was for legal purposes only, designed to obtain data for anti-terrorism motives. But companies will still need to address cyber security as a top priority as we live in a 24/7 era in which we’re always connected. Firms need to be able to keep most of what is normal privacy away from criminal activity.

Mark Skilton

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