The Online Privacy vs National Security Dilemma

In this day and age, advancements in Internet and telecommunication technologies have further complicated the issues involving privacy and national security. This is why the controversy involving the technology giant Apple and the United States' national security and law enforcement agencies, particularly the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has reached its boiling point. It is likely that the case will bring about discussions on the pros and cons of government oversight and control on the access of private information on mobile phones and computers including Apple's line of iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks. 

There are two sides of the argument here and it is obvious that Apple won't release its extensive user data information to the government because they want to "protect" private data from public scrutiny. If you're the typical "law-abiding" user then it is a good thing, right? Sure, our privacy is secured but it's not totally accurate when our gadgets constantly transmit data without us knowing. Apple is also doing data mining based on the way we use our mobile phones, we search on the web, and perhaps the keystrokes we make. Real-time data analytics provide them key information on the trends and tendencies of their market audience. 

Without access to private user data, it keeps the FBI away from sensitive information regarding plans for the next terrorist attack transmitted by "suspected terrorists." On the flip side, giving access to the government would be like opening Pandora's box of privacy issues. Once the FBI has blanket authority to sniff around user data and Apple, being a multinational corporation, other foreign governments will soon demand the same thing! Unfortunately, some countries like China and Russia won't be operating the same way as the FBI as they will likely be spying on their own people by clamping down on dissent and violating civil liberties. 

If a law is passed that would define how the government uses these data, national security agencies would be able to anticipate and monitor any form of potential public security threats. It is also likely that once Apple's operating system is unraveled, it would be open to malicious attacks from viruses, malware, and other backdoor exploits thereby allowing hackers to harvest passwords, personal data, and credit card information. Apple would have to redo its operating system if that would have happened. 

This is a very contentious issue for us users and we would have to balance the pros and cons. Are we willing to sacrifice our privacy for the sake of national security? Are we going to allow our government to monitor the digital footprint that will allow them to keep us in line? At the end of the day, our civil liberties weigh more than the collective security of society as a whole. 

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