Opinion: My partner died in San Bernardino and I want to know more, Tim Cook

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BY RYAN REYES  |  When my partner Daniel Kaufman was killed in the terror attacks in San Bernardino I never really imagined a “right-to-privacy debate” might interfere with getting to the bottom of what happened.

I am all about the right to privacy.  I am a gay man who is HIV positive, a Pagan by faith, a slut in most people’s eyes, lover of diversity and someone who has fought against oppression and for equality all of his life. So when Apple demanded a court order before helping the FBI open the iPhone of shooter Syed Raheel Farook, I was okay with that.  

I did not feel threatened by the FBI’s request for assistance from Apple in retrieving data from the phone that was otherwise unattainable from old iCloud backups. Of course the FBI needed to know what else was on the phone in the days and hours leading up to the massacre. Apple rightly demanded a formal court order for the request and the FBI got one.

But when Apple got the court order and refused I took it personally.

Apple’s refusal after the FBI got a court order is not only harmful to the investigation, it is an appalling marketing move that pits the Apple brand against justice. That Tim Cook would choose to make himself look like some kind of hero, a martyr or victim is disgusting!  His refusal to help is nothing more than anti-government propaganda (which, I would typically be all for).  In instances such as this, companies, especially American companies, have a very real obligation to aid in the safety of this country.  Failure to do EVERYTHING that they can or that they are asked to do can result in very dire consequences.

I understand people’s concerns in this case: If Apple complies than an ever-encroaching government is reaching even deeper. If they create a tool that allows access to highly encrypted personal data it eventually exposes all of us. If the government gets its way it will be a rapid nose dive toward a more Orwellian future. And that’s the tip of the iceberg.  However, the government is requesting, not demanding or forcing compliance.  Maybe Apple wants to push this debate to clarify archaic laws that rule the intersection of technology and privacy.  I don’t think this is the right case.

So, before you click away from this article assuming I feel this way because I lost my boyfriend in the attack, let me correct you.  I have always felt this way.  Since I am just a normal person that leads a very normal life, my voice has never been heard on the topic.  It is only because of my involvement in the events that took place on December 2, 2015 that I have been thrown into the spotlight and have been asked my opinion on matters.

Tim Cook claims that Apple has been helping with the investigation in every single way.  I find this hard to believe because the only way Apple could help would be by unlocking the phone.  Even if there were other instances where Apple was helping with this particular investigation, why would the tune suddenly change when it came to unlocking a device?  Call logs, voice mails and text messages would have been acquired through the carrier (Verizon, Sprint, ATT, etc) and not through Apple (food for thought).

Tim Cook has stated that this will undermine security and eluded to the idea that all people will be targeted for government hacking of their devices.  This just is not the case.

Let us not forget that prior to 2015 Apple has had a long standing record of helping law enforcement break into devices during their investigations.  Even for things as minor (compared to terrorism) as drug charges.  So why the sudden change in direction when it comes to terrorism and possibly protecting the lives of other innocent people?

Tim Cook says he is concerned that complying with the court order will enable hackers to access people’s phones.  That is already happening.  I believe the lady doth protest too much.  Apple needs this debate to protect the veneer of product security invincibility.  Any hacker will tell you If there is a will, there is a way and Apple is a favorite target.

The government is taking a more honest approach than Apple. The government could simply hire a hacker but they have chosen to obey legal norms in this case. Witness the court order.  Tim Cook should be praising them rather than trying to tear them apart with his anti-government rhetoric.  Even if it were the case that it is impossible to hack into an iPhone, Apple should offer to engineer retrieval of data in instances of national security.  If Apple is arguing that it is impossible then they take us, and their shareholders, for fools.

Cell phones (especially those produced by Apple) are far less phone and far more miniature computer.  In ANY investigation, one of the first things seized is going to be the computer.  When you look at it from this perspective, the FBI has every right to be looking into Farook’s iPhone.  Period.

For those that are in support of Apple, I pose these question:  would you still feel the same way about it if YOU had lost someone in the attack?  How would it make you feel to hear someone tell you that the privacy of a dead terrorist is more important than the possibility of finding out more details about what happened to your loved one?  Would you feel guilty if someone else got hurt because there were more people tied to Farook that had not been caught and who later decided to move forward with more attacks?  Personally, I hope you never have to answer those questions.  If that happens I will be sure to remind you that privacy is far more important than your peace of mind.  Hopefully that will comfort you in your grieving.

Should another attack happen that could have been prevented by having the information from the phone, I feel that Tim Cook and Apple should be held accountable right along with anyone else involved.  By actively fighting against releasing possible life saving information, Tim Cook has not only aligned himself and Apple with the true threat to security and safety, but has added his name and the company’s brand to the list of the true threats.

This whole thing has made me question my own personal loyalty to Apple.  I myself own an iPhone and an iPad mini.  My Mother owns an iPhone, iPad and iPad mini.  I have tons of family and friends that own Apple products.  The vast majority of us are starting to reconsider our choice of product because of this.  Up to and including the possibility of trashing them.  If this continues on the path that it is, it could very well result in such a thing.  As well as me using whatever means needed to organize full blown protests in front of Apple locations and boycott of their products.  I already have plenty of people willing to stand behind me on this and I am always willing to accept more.

In the short end of it, it boils down to this:  terrorists have no right to privacy.  Dead people have no right to privacy.  Dead terrorists CERTAINLY have no right to privacy.

Unlock the phone and check your ego at the door Tim Cook.  You are part of the problem, not the solution.

Think Differently!

Ryan Reyes was hosted by the Obama’s as a guest at the White House and at the State of the Union after he spoke out passionately in defense of the Muslim community. He lives near San Bernardino, California.

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