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ITHACA, NY – Apple CEO Tim Cook says the U.S. government is attempting to force Apple to create a version of the iPhone operating system that would bypass the phone’s security features.

(Editor’s note: If you haven’t followed the story, here’s a New York Times piece that explains it.)

Apple has refused, citing the importance of smartphones, the need for encryption, and the potential for setting a dangerous precedent.

Cornell University engineering professor Stephen Wicker has briefed the U.S. government on cyber security, information technology and privacy concerns and is the author of “Cellular Convergence and the Death of Privacy”.

He says the courts should support Apple because smartphones have become the personal papers of the 21st century, and cryptography is a matter of self-defense.

Wicker says:

“Apple is entirely correct.  The smartphone has become more than a multifaceted communication device, it is now our source of entertainment and news, our wallet, our personal notes and our memory.  It is, in short, a piece of our modern selves.  In a world of relentless data collection, cryptography is a matter of self-defense.

“The FBI has asserted that its request is a one-time event.  Unfortunately the requested operating system could be used to bypass the security of most iPhones, not just the subject of the current investigation. Once created, such a tool would be difficult to suppress and even more difficult to resist the next time the government wants the contents of an encrypted iPhone.

“There was a time when personal papers were considered sacrosanct.  In an 1886 case, the Supreme Court stated that ‘we have been unable to perceive that the seizure of a man’s private books and papers to be used in evidence against him is substantially different from compelling him to be a witness against himself’.

“Smartphones are the personal papers of the 21st century, and cryptography the primary means of keeping our data to ourselves. Our courts should support Apple.”

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.