Privacy Redefined

Since the December 2nd 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, American Citizens’ right to privacy has been a subject of much public discourse. After the shooter’s iPhone was apprehended, the FBI was putting intense pressure on Apple to create a software hack to retrieve information from the device. Apple refused, and argued that giving the government a backdoor entry would compromise the privacy of every iPhone user. In March, however, it was announced that the Justice Department paid an outside source to break into the iPhone, and thus dropped the suit against Apple.

Richard Clarke, former national security advisor, told NPR:

“[The FBI] is not as interested in solving the problem as they are in getting a legal precedent,” Clarke said. “Every expert I know believes the NSA could crack this phone. They want the precedent that government could compel a device manufacturer to let the government in.”

The FBI insisted at first that this case was not about setting precedent, and was rather to uncover terrorist leads in one singular instance. Department spokesperson Melanie Newman now claims.

“It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with cooperation from relevant parties, or through the court system when cooperation fails…We will continue to pursue all available options for this mission, including seeking the cooperation of manufacturers and relying upon the creativity of both the public and private sectors.”

Many are concerned that the FBI refuses to reveal the method by which they broke into Syed Farook’s phone. Hackaday argues that, if a software glitch was found, Apple should be notified so that further operating systems can be protected from new avenues of criminal hacking.

Several other issues related to privacy in the U.S. have been on the forefront of both media coverage and legislative debate. For example, there is currently some debate over how and when video cameras worn by police officers should be released to the public. On the one hand, many insist, footage could invade the privacy of those in the videos. But, the LA Times counters, the converse could often be necessary to hold officers accountable for their actions.

The Intercept reported last week that top privacy watchdog David Medine, Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board chairman, will be entering retirement on July after a long tenure advocating for American privacy. It also provides thoughtful commentary on the proposal that “the NSA would soon be sharing with other government agencies the raw, unfiltered intelligence from the depths of its massive overseas spying programs.”

Ever since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on NSA operations, American citizens have been increasingly skeptical of government power to intercept confidential information from private citizens. Many are openly championing the right of citizens to keep their information private from Internet Service Providers. And on March 31st, “[T]he FCC voted …[to] require ISPs to get opt-in permission from customers if they want to use their personal information for most reasons besides marketing their own products.”

This is good news for privacy advocates. However, it has been suggested by one study that those most likely to be put under government surveillance are also less likely to openly criticize or question government action.

For now, recommends lawyers focus on cybersecurity, always backup information, use strict verification methods, incorporate password managers, look into encyption, and educate collegues and clients on security measures.

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