Apple should look at big picture in iPhone encryption dispute

The world seems to be in a mess and the situation is getting worse.

We have tensions in the South China Sea. We have the Russia-Ukraine spat. We have terrorists striking at civilians in France, Indonesia and the United States.

Then, we have a company like Apple, which is resisting a federal court order to unlock an iPhone used by a terrorist, in the name of protecting its customers and the First Amendment ("Apple rejects order to break into shooter's iPhone"; last Thursday).

Does that mean the possibility of identifying other terrorist links in the US, and possibly saving the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians (who could be Apple customers), is less important than protecting the integrity of Apple products and selling iPhones?

Apple chief executive Tim Cook cites the court order as an unprecedented one.

But the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria phenomenon and the planned killing of citizens on US soil are also unprecedented and, therefore, unprecedented steps are needed to deal with them.

I find it implausible that a program to unlock the iPhone cannot be destroyed under close supervision to ensure that it cannot be used again.

The fight against terrorism is very real.

It is a fight that one is either totally behind or not.

Matthew Ong Koon Lock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2016, with the headline 'Apple should look at big picture in iPhone encryption dispute'. Print Edition | Subscribe