With this fight between Apple and the government over unlocking an iPhone, I have been looking at why Apple would put its business on the line to protect consumers. Does it actually care about consumer’s privacy or data?
Let’s look at Apple’s iCloud terms and conditions
Here is a quote:
TO THE GREATEST EXTENT PERMISSIBLE BY APPLICABLE LAW, APPLE DOES NOT GUARANTEE OR WARRANT THAT ANY CONTENT YOU MAY STORE OR ACCESS THROUGH THE SERVICE WILL NOT BE SUBJECT TO INADVERTENT DAMAGE, CORRUPTION, LOSS, OR REMOVAL IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT, AND APPLE SHALL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE SHOULD SUCH DAMAGE, CORRUPTION, LOSS, OR REMOVAL OCCUR
I didn’t capitalize it. It’s that way in the agreement here.
That blob of text absolves Apple from any responsibility to take good care of your data. Their data center burns down? Not their problem. They make a software change that locks you out of your content, sucks for you.
Here is another quote under the section D. Back up Your Content
You are responsible for backing up, to your own computer or other device, any important documents, images or other Content that you store or access via the Service. Apple shall use reasonable skill and due care in providing the Service, but Apple does not guarantee or warrant that any Content you may store or access through the Service will not be subject to inadvertent damage, corruption or loss.
So, to set things straight, a service that includes a backup capability is saying you are responsible for additionally backing up your data. Great. This is where it gets tricky, but I will get to that in a minute.
Here is yet another quote:
APPLE DOES NOT REPRESENT OR GUARANTEE THAT THE SERVICE WILL BE FREE FROM LOSS, CORRUPTION, ATTACK, VIRUSES, INTERFERENCE, HACKING, OR OTHER SECURITY INTRUSION, AND APPLE DISCLAIMS ANY LIABILITY RELATING THERETO.
Ah, again, Apple is basically saying, we can leave gaping security holes knowingly and still not be responsible for your personal data.
This is my favorite one:
YOU EXPRESSLY UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT APPLE AND ITS AFFILIATES, SUBSIDIARIES, OFFICERS, DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, PARTNERS AND LICENSORS SHALL NOT BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, CONSEQUENTIAL OR EXEMPLARY DAMAGES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, DAMAGES FOR LOSS OF PROFITS, GOODWILL, USE, DATA, COST OF PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES, OR OTHER INTANGIBLE LOSSES (EVEN IF APPLE HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES), RESULTING FROM: (I) THE USE OR INABILITY TO USE THE SERVICE (II) ANY CHANGES MADE TO THE SERVICE OR ANY TEMPORARY OR PERMANENT CESSATION OF THE SERVICE OR ANY PART THEREOF; (III) THE UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS TO OR ALTERATION OF YOUR TRANSMISSIONS OR DATA; (IV) THE DELETION OF, CORRUPTION OF, OR FAILURE TO STORE AND/OR SEND OR RECEIVE YOUR TRANSMISSIONS OR DATA ON OR THROUGH THE SERVICE; (V) STATEMENTS OR CONDUCT OF ANY THIRD PARTY ON THE SERVICE; AND (VI) ANY OTHER MATTER RELATING TO THE SERVICE.
Let’s be clear about what this means: If Apple makes a change to iCloud that subsequently causes your iPhone to overheat and catch fire, they are still not responsible because you agreed they aren’t when you agreed to use this service. Nice.
To sum up the above
Apple is not responsible for anything held within its data centers from any perspective be it data loss, security breaches or incompetence. Go lawyers!
How does this apply to the San Bernadino case?
So now the government rolls in. As it turns out, iCloud data is more easily recoverable than the iPhone itself. Apple has been willing to hand over the iCloud data without a debate. Here’s the issue, if Apple is willing to hand the government easy access to your data from your iCloud account, how is that different from unlocking the iPhone? Especially when said iCloud account includes complete backups of the phone?
Yep, it is 100% a PR Stunt
Unlocking iPhones does not set a dangerous precedent when most users can simply have their data taken from Apple’s servers willingly by Apple. Apple has already set the precedent in the wrong direction and is using PR to make it seem like they did things right. I am personally disgusted by this.
There is still another problem. And that is the monopolistic practices of Apple as a service provider.
You have no choice
The fact is there are only two legal ways to backup your iPhone: iCloud and iTunes. And, as I mentioned earlier, iCloud says in the agreement that you should backup outside of iCloud. The only one that gives you any semblance of security is to backup only to iTunes (which can be encrypted. I haven’t looked at the strength of this security). This is a company that maintains a walled garden. There are no other options for backing up your data. In addition, you can’t automatically do both.
Since their agreements protect them from severe software bugs that prevent either the backup or restore from working correctly, when they do mess up, it’s on you. This includes the iTunes backup.
This means you can only have one secure backup and no secondary backups because you would have no way of taking the backup or restoring it. Not to mention the privacy concerns if you want to use iCloud for any other reason. And the iTunes backup is still subject to Apple’s incompetence (yes, I’ve had that issue).
A company should not be able to force you to use their own solutions and then not be held accountable when their solutions have security or privacy problems around your data. Either Apple starts being held accountable for the data around their products, or they open the door to 3rd party backup/restore options.
I don’t rely on one backup for my Mac. I have two time machine backups, one on the network, one plugged into the system. I also have an off-site internet backup that runs every hour on my computer. Some of my important data (like pictures of my son) are on both Apple’s and Google’s photo services in addition to those backups and the laptop itself.
Yet with an iPhone, it is entirely in Apple’s irresponsible hands.
Are they supporting the public with the San Bernadino case?
Nope. My conclusion is they don’t care at all about the security or privacy of your phone or your data. If they did, they would put more accountability in their services and provide iCloud with a similar level of protection as the iPhone. This is just a PR stunt to get loud mouthed activists to be on Apple’s side creating more buzz for the company. Especially since they already are willing to hand off your data from the iCloud account.
Once this comes down to a business decision of obeying the government or harming their business, they will fold. They are playing a smart game of poker.
What I will say, is if Apple flat out refuses a court order on this, I will lift my boycott of Apple and run out and re-buy their crappy products. I will certainly support a company that will risk its business to protect my privacy. Apple simply isn’t that company.
What do you think?