Is this the spied-on citizen’s revenge? In theory, the demands addressed to GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) by the American justice system are legitimate. It goes without saying that in regular criminal inquiries, within legal framework, the police sleuths can have access to protected information, in order to confuse criminals or terrorists. When it comes to listening in, the case is a classic: If a judge allows it, in compliance with the criminal procedure code, police can listen in on suspects to prevent a crime or arrest those who are responsible for it. It is therefore logical that Apple provides the police with access to protected information contained on certain smartphones.
Only, the innumerable revelations over the last few years about the National Security Agency’s practices complicate the issue to no end. It has been established now that the American surveillance agency has extended its practices well beyond the legal boundaries of the fight against terrorism or organized crime. Examples of this include spying on governments with whom they are on friendly terms, which is completely illegal, or discovering confidential information about industrial or commercial negotiations. By acting in this way, the NSA has ruined citizens’ trust, and the citizens have every right to fear excess power.
Accordingly, if Apple gives in to demands to produce a tool to override its products’ security, what can guarantee that this access to private information will only be limited to legally justified cases? Who can ensure that the new Big Brother will be confined to their legal sphere and will resist the temptation to extend the scope of their surveillance? As liberal 18th century Englishman Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Is it necessary to give this absolute power to the spying States?