Apple and the FBI

Contemporary Issues in Marketing
December 13, 2017
December 13, 2017


The Case:

In 2013 Edward Snowden revealed that various state security agencies including the NSA in the US and GCHQ in Britain could access almost all the

information held on any smartphone. Perhaps in response to this revelation, Apple developed new encryption technology for iOS 8 and later devices

which prevented any outside access to users’ data. Despite legal objections, Apple continues to use encryption methods which can not be read by the

security services.

On December 2nd 2015, 14 people were killed and 22 were seriously injured in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California. The terrorists had

destroyed their personal phones immediately before the attack but one of them had also been issued with an Apple iPhone 5c by his employer which was

recovered after the attack. The FBI had reason to believe that some information on this iPhone such as call history, internet history, and location

tracing would be of great importance in preventing further acts of terrorism. However, they were unable to hack into this phone because of Apple’s new

security features.

On 9th February 2106, the FBI obtained a court order requiring Apple to unlock this phone by providing a new one-off iOS operating system which would

allow them to use brute force methods to defeat the pin code without erasing all data after 10 attempts – as it can be set by the user to do. The FBI

said this would be used once only to crack this particular phone and be destroyed afterwards.

Apple repeatedly refused to comply with this order: stating that creating such a ‘trapdoor’ would encourage others to do the same and would not be

consistent with their commercial goal of protecting their users’ information. On 16th February Apple CEO Tim Cook sent an online ‘letter’ to all Apple

users explaining why the company was taking this position. Most tech companies in California sided with Apple in this debate but polls suggest that a

majority of US citizens take the side of the FBI.

The US Department of Justice therefore filed a federal application to compel Apple to comply and Apple announced that it would fight the federal order

in court. However, while legal preparations were being made, the FBI were approached by ‘a third party’ (assumed to be Cellebrite, the Israeli data-

extraction specialists) and on 28th March 2016 announced that they had, with the help of this ‘third party’, successfully broken into the iPhone and

no longer required assistance from Apple.


Report instruction:

Write a report which expands on the case by describing the ethical issues, if any, raised by the case you have chosen. Do not omit any legal

requirements. These are only brief outlines. You should research (and include references on) your chosen case looking, in particular, for project

management issues on which you can comment from an ethical point of view.

In particular you should explain which, if any, ethical principles might help prevent any recurrence of this sort of event. Your report may cover

technical matters where necessary but the marks will be awarded for coverage of ethical issues.

Structure the case study as a report (explanations in italics) use decimal section headings and divide sections further as necessary:

1) Executive summary (fewer than 200 words: a brief overview stressing your ethical recommendations)

2) Introduction (this should introduce the case that you have chosen to study in your own words and outline the ethical problem associated with the


3) Ethical theories and principles (briefly review the specific ethical theories and principles which you think are applicable to your case.)

4) Case Study Analysis (this is the major part of the report. Apply the ethical principles you have selected to the details of the case and explain

how their application could prevent a recurrence of the event).

5) Conclusions (this section must not introduce any new material but should summarise the key conclusions arising from your analysis)

6) References (you must reference your sources by number in the text – using numbers in square brackets – and list the full source details in

numerical order in this section).




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