Does Giving Up Privacy Keep Us Safe From Terrorism?

For national security purposes, the FBI is asking Apple to risk the privacy of its customers. Which is more important: security or privacy?

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In the U.S., there is a long-standing debate surrounding national security and privacy. How much privacy should civilians give up? Are policies that are supposed to prevent terrorist attacks effective?

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says citizens are protected from "unreasonable searches." Anything deemed "reasonable" tends to entail civilians forgoing a certain amount of privacy. Body scanners at U.S. airports are a good example. Air travelers give up a degree of privacy in order to prevent other passengers from bringing anything dangerous onboard. Supporters of the NSA's mass surveillance program that came to light in 2013 argue a similar rationale: those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear.

According to a 2015 Pew poll, over half of Americans believe current anti-terrorist measures like this have not done enough. On the other hand, 28 percent of those polled said the policies had gone too far in restricting civil liberties. There's also evidence indicating that some security measures, particularly airport security checks, have major flaws. In 2015, the director of the Transportation Security Administration was reassigned, after TSA officers failed security tests done by an undercover team, 95 percent of the time.

It's a question that continues to play out in the national spotlight, including Apple's ongoing fight against an order to unlock the iPhone that belonged to one of the shooters in last year's San Bernardino shooting. This week, the House Judiciary Committee held a four-hour hearing on the matter. The case is putting the tech company under intense scrutiny for its refusal and the outcome of the case will likely have major repercussions.

Learn More:
A Message to Our Customers (apple.com)
"The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers."

Americans feel the tensions between privacy and security concerns (pewresearch.org)
"Americans have long been divided in their views about the trade-off between security needs and personal privacy."

Discussing the Transportation Security Administration's Efforts to Address Inspector General Findings (oig.dhs.gov)
"Good morning Chairman Hoeven, Ranking Member Shaheen, and Members of the Subcommittee."

How the FBI's online wiretapping plan could get your computer hacked (washingtonpost.com)
"The FBI is pushing for expanded power to eavesdrop on private Internet communications. "