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Student connects technology and social justice

| Sunday, April 10, 2016

The final installment of this school year’s Justice Friday series took place this past Friday. The discussion was led by Saint Mary’s junior Kimberly Orlando and focused on informing students about Apple’s recent involvement with the FBI and the social justice issues that come alongside technological advancement.

Orlando started the discussion by explaining a timeline of events surrounding the San Bernardino shooting.

She said on June 8 the Information Technology Industry Council and the Software and Information Industry Association wrote a letter to President Obama asking him not to pursue any policies that would weaken the encryption of digital products or services

On July 8, FBI director James Comey asked the Senate to consider inserting backdoors into encryption technology, Orlando said.

“‘Back doors’ is a figurative term most people are familiar with. If a robber was to break into a house they would go through the back door, so it’s technology used to break into electronic devices,” Orlando said.

On December 2, 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people and wounded 22 in a mass shooting and bombing attempt at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California.

The next day, the FBI opened a counterterrorism investigation into the couple, Orlando said.

“It gets a little controversial because I don’t think they ever proved that he had any part in or had any connections to the Islamic State,” Orlando said, “ … But people go back and forth [about the issue] and the government might have just not wanted to release the information or they might be currently trying to figure it out.”

James Comey told a Senate panel in Feburary that FBI investigators are still attempting to unlock Farook’s phone, Orlando said.

“Two months had passed with no progress, so that was a little bit suspicious,” she said.

Orlando said United States Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym then sent out a mandate that Apple create a software program with the intention of helping the FBI break into the phones of terrorists.

“They wanted Apple to write software where the phone’s memory won’t erase and there won’t be an escalating time between trying to guess the passcode so they [the FBI] could try as many combinations as possible,” she said.

Orlando said if a phone was locked by a six digit alphanumerical code, even with the desired software, it could still potentially take the government five and a half years to open the phone.

“I think one of the biggest issues with this case is why the government would need Apple’s help, this seems like something government should be able to do by themselves,” she said.

If Apple complied with this order, the government could have access to a person’s phone content including their photos, contact information or credit card numbers, Orlando said.

“One of the issues people have is figuring out how the government can do this,” Orlando said. “There is a piece of legislation written in 1789, when George Washington was still around, where there is a script of command saying if the government finds it so necessary for you to do something, you have to do it. Somehow it hasn’t been nulled in 200 years and so people got pretty riled up about that.”

Orlando said the FBI was able to unlock the phone with outside help March 28.

“It’s scary because it took the government three months to unlock an older iPhone,” Orlando said.

Orlando said any phone with the iOS 8 update is automatically encrypted and access to user information is nearly impossible; even Apple does not have access to their phone user’s information. The only way to access the phone’s information is by physically unlocking the phone.

“This is one of the first times we’ve had a secure network and that’s scary,” she said.

Orlando said US legislation is nearly 30 years behind technology.

“We don’t have any legislation covering technology in the U.S. right now,” she said. “We don’t have anything on the internet or phones, it’s all very vague and so I understand why we had to use this [old] legislation but we shouldn’t have to.”

Orlando said technology-based social issues need to be addressed in the future.

“Because you can’t break into an iPhone, we are creating a secure network for terrorists,” she said. “Yet is it worth having to downgrade all of your security for these potential risks?”

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