In recent weeks, much attention has been given to the controversy surrounding Apple's unwillingness to comply with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's request to design new software that will unlock a cell phone used by one of the killers in the San Bernardino attack of December 2015. The FBI believes potentially crucial information could be gleaned from access to the phone's data.

Apple-FBI Dispute

For its part, Apple has argued that by creating a “backdoor” to unlock this particular phone, they would be setting a dangerous precedent that could compromise the data security of ordinary businesses and consumers in the future.

When you're dealing with such big players as Apple and the FBI, it can be easy to shrug and say “well, that doesn't have anything to do with me.” But this dispute and the issues involved do have to do with all of us, most certainly including business owners.

The most obvious connection is to other technology companies, but the reality is that even if you're business is not in tech, it almost certainly uses tech in a variety of ways that are quickly becoming essential to the function of small and medium businesses. Payments, bookings, billings, inventory...all rely on the assurance that the personal, proprietary, and financial information of all parties involved will remain private.

Apple's argument—that the same process used to open a killer's phone could be used to open anyone's —is essentially a new framing of the age old concern of liberty vs. security...how many liberties (including privacy, the freedom from others' eyes) will we sacrifice to maintain our security? And, moreover, what happens when our willingness to sacrifice those liberties in fact makes us less secure? Data theft is already a huge problem in the global economy, and it is not a problem that will be going away any time soon.

We live in an age where even smaller businesses are deeply connected to the larger world. As those connections are increasingly found to be online, the ramifications of the FBI-Apple dispute will extend far beyond the specifics of the case.

Who will be affected by the FBI-Apple dispute, and the larger issues of online privacy?

We all will. And that most certainly includes you.

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