With the large technological advancements that are constantly occurring in this day and age, one major question continues to plunge itself into the court of public opinion: where to draw the line between government regulation and freedom of privacy. One can view this debate through the lens of a supply and demand cure for privacy. We, as consumers want to be safe and ensure that our country is doing whatever it can to prevent terrorist attacks, but we also do not want to be constantly watched and monitored due to fear of our personal privacy being violated. Finding the equilibrium between our demand for privacy and the right amount of government regulation is the line that becomes more shaded as technology improves.
One recent example of the fight between consumer privacy and public safety was discussed in a recent meeting between Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and James Comey, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Director. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that in the meeting Tim Cook argued that the government should “publicly acknowledge the benefits of encryption” while government officials said that large companies should work with the government to devise a way to get court-ordered access to data sought in investigations. The underlining focus here, although not mentioned directly in the meeting, was fact that Syed Rizwan Farook, who was one of the shooters in the San Bernardino shooting on December 2nd, had an IPhone.
The tension that existed between these two figures became salient when they took to the internet to lash out at the opinions of each other. Mr. Comey argued that it is immoral to not share private information about consumers with the government if it can prevent terrorist attacks from happening; However, the Cook said that what the government is trying to do sets a dangerous precedent that could lead to an infringement on civil liberties.
The issue is not unique to Apple. Many cases have been filed against Google trying to force the global search engine giant to open some of its servers to government circumspection. In a world where companies like Google and Apple contain more information about individuals than even one’s own spouse would want to know, the question over how much privacy we want at the expense of increased safety is one that will only become more prevalent as time progresses.