I generally disapprove of government intrusion into personal, private communication; however, in this case I am on their side. As you may know, the government as subpoenaed Apple to unlock the cell phone of the San Bernadino couple who terrorized and murdered 14 of his co-workers in December. The New York Times reports that “Mr. Cook, the chief executive at Apple, responded Wednesday morning with a blistering, 1,100-word letter to Apple customers, warning of the “chilling” breach of privacy posed by the government’s demands. He maintained that the order would effectively require it to create a “backdoor” to get around its own safeguards, and Apple vowed to appeal the ruling by next week.”
Here is where Apple is wrong, the phone in question was not the property of the Sayeed Farook, it was the property of his employer which was a government agency. Therefore, there was no reasonable expectation of privacy on said phone. He may have wanted privacy, but there would not have been any more right to privacy on this phone than there would have been on an agency provided computer. Therefore, I believe that Apple has a duty to unlock the phone and provide the government with the data contained on the phone because it is essentially their information.
In the case of Ontario v. Quon, the Supreme Court found that the employer had the right to review the text messages of a police officer on the cell phone provided to him by the police department and that this “did not violate the officer’s 4th Amendment rights because it was motivated by legitimate work-related purposes.” (https://www.privacyrights.org/workplace-privacy-and-employee-monitoring#4a) In this case, the police department was reviewing the cell phone records of their employees to determine whether they needed to modify their plan. In doing so, they noticed some abnormalities; that some officers were going over their text limits. They obtained a transcript of the text records and in doing so the department found out that Officer Quon was sending sexually explicit text messages from his phone. The Court’s decision generally allows government employers to look at workers’ electronic messages if employers have reasonable, work-related grounds. The fact that Sayeed Farook shot up his agency and killed 14 of his fellow employees should be reason enough for Apple to unlock the phone. Farook did not own this phone, and therefore the data contained on the phone is not his.
Let me know your thoughts.