Thursday, 25 February 2016

Apple, the Champion of Privacy

You might not be aware of it, but as we speak Apple is entangled with the FBI in a struggle to determine whether it [Apple] should or should not devise a backdoor that would allow authorities to hack their way into an iPhone 5C. This is a big deal, for the simple fact things won't end there; it is already obvious more iPhones are on the waiting list. It is obvious other countries, like Russia or China, will follow shortly on the "let's put Apple under pressure" agenda. And it is obvious your average criminal will nose around, too.
In other words, Apple, in this current standoff, is the Champion of Privacy for all smartphone yielding people in the world. No matter where you are or what smartphone you use, eventually the outcome of this case will trickle down to affect you in person.
It goes without saying that I am firmly on Apple corner's in this fight. Any security cyber expert worth a cent would agree. It's just that the FBI is waving that good old "terror alert!" flag to scare enough people out of their wits in order to create an actual controversy.
It's just that I wouldn't have picked Apple, a commercial company whose only interest is making a profits, as my champion.


On the other hand, there are things to be said on behalf of Apple, especially since Tim Cook took over from Steve Jobs. I'll give you a couple of examples.
A couple of months ago I attended a design workshop at my local Apple shop. It was free, and it was clearly designed as a plug for the iPad Pro, but it also taught me a couple of useful things. [And as per the iPad Pro, there really is very little reason for the average person to acquire one, although I wouldn't mind at all if Tim cut down the price to reasonable levels so I could play World of Tanks Blitz on a 13" tablet.]
The thing that surprised me about the workshop was that my fellow students were all elderly people who, quite clearly, knew nothing about design. The situation clarified itself at the end of the workshop, when one of them turned to the instructor and asked him by first name, "what are you doing next week?"
As it turned out, there is a group of retired people in my area that meets up regularly for Apple's free workshops. I would say it's a win-win; they are armed with their iPads and such, while Apple gives something back to the community.
The other week I visited that same Apple shop again to sort a minor thing out (Apple is currently running a product recall on Aussie power plugs). Welcoming me at the entrance was a very disabled Apple employee on a wheelchair. He might have been disabled but he helped me just like any other Apple employee would have. It's just that one hardly encounters disabled employees in the retail industry! It is therefore important to applaud Apple for what it is doing here.
So yes, I know Apple is a company that works on a very capitalism based greedy framework. It's a company that avoids paying taxes, a company that has legions of underpaid workers employed under grim conditions on its behalf in China, and a company that uses minerals obtained through questionable means from war torn countries. As do all other notable companies in the industry.
Sometimes, however rarely, the interests of the public and the interests of a company align. Which is why, at this moment in time and against this particular background, Apple stands out as a likable company.

Image by EFF Photos, Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0) licence

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