We were all deprived of the mega FBI/Apple showdown we’ve been waiting for

Ever since the news erupted that Apple CEO Tim Cook had refused a federal judge’s court order to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, it set in motion one of the more highly anticipated clashes in recent memory.

It was a debate of national security versus civil liberties. The government versus the tech companies. Washington versus Silicon Valley.

People from all over chimed in on the conversation. CEOs of other major tech companies. Presidential candidates. The infamous whistleblower Edward Snowden. And of course — me.

It wasn’t so much that people were dying to know what was on the San Bernardino shooter’s phone — for all we know there may have been nothing there that would have even helped the feds with their investigation.

But it was set to become a landmark case that would set a precedent of how far the U.S. government can legally intrude into into its own citizens’ personal data for investigative purposes.

Apple FBI.jpg

Tim Cook was the one taking a moral stand. He was going against the most powerful organization in the world in the United States government, and he was doing it to prevent us, the consumer, from being exploited by the very same bureaucracy that exists to protect us.

It’s drama at its finest. The stuff movies are made of. It’s the Batman vs. Superman we really wanted, one without Ben Affleck.

And then, today, the government dropped the case because they found a way to open it without Apple’s help. The end.

Talk about anticlimactic! Geez.

It’s like going to the movies, ordering your ridiculously overbuttered popcorn, smoking a doobie in the bathroom, and then taking your seat, rearing to go, only to have an usher come up to you and tell you in one sentence how the movie ends rather then allowing you to actually watch it.

We were deprived of what would have been some world-class drama.

The irony, of course, is that now Apple is the one that is demanding the government to let them know how in the world they managed to open it, so they can continue to improve their own security moving forward.

And the government has absolutely zero obligation to tell them. And just like that, Tim Cook transforms from a martyr into a fool.

The battle is still far from over. Another instance will surely pop up, most likely sooner than later, where the government will request a company like Apple to unlock a device for what they claim are for national security purposes.

But it still won’t be the same. Sequels are never as good as the original.

Especially when the original didn’t live up to the hype.

I blame Ben Affleck for everything.

Privacy — that thing everybody knows they should care about … but still doesn’t.

If it wasn’t for the whistle-blowing NSA contractor Edward Snowden, we would likely never know the extent in which governments invade privacy in order to protect national security.

And there’s really no doubting that government agencies like the FBI are trying to catch the bad guys. But with practically no oversight and regulations against them, it’s only natural that unlimited power will eventually be abused.

But since Snowden’s revelations regarding the U.S. government’s surveillance of its own citizens in 2013, privacy has at least entered national consciousness. This is the digital age, where technology is advancing at an exceptional pace, and the means in which governments can track us are becoming more and more intrusive.

At the same time, terrorism is still a significant threat, and if advanced technology can be used to thwart potential attacks on our country, why not use it?

iPhone hack.jpgThe fundamental question has become this: how much of our privacy are we willing to sacrifice in order to allow our government free rein to track suspicious behavior? Is there a limit?

If you ask Apple CEO Tim Cook, the answer is yes.

The company on Tuesday rejected a federal court order to essentially create a universal backdoor method that could unlock every iPhone and divulge all of the information inside of. The FBI wants it so they could unlock the phone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

Why Apple is so adamant about refusing this order is because they purposely created their latest operating systems with encryption that couldn’t be unlocked. No such method exists to universally unlock every iPhone, a policy Apple instituted to protect consumer privacy.

The creation of a universal “skeleton key,” Apple insists, would not only give its wielder the potential to unlock any phone at will, but also presents the risk of it falling into the hands of international hackers.

Which is exactly the reason why Apple never created one.

The FBI claims that it would only be used on a one-time basis — a notion that Apple says is impossible to guarantee; once the knowledge of how to unlock every phone exists, it can never be erased, they say.

It’s truly a complicated issue, one in which you can understand both sides of the Tim Cookargument, and may ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court. Which, in turn, would make it a truly landmark case that could set the standard for privacy moving forward.

Snowden, meanwhile, made his stance perfectly clear, calling this the most “important
tech case in a decade.” As did Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who also expressed his support for Apple (although somewhat belatedly).

Unfortunately, I still don’t think this is enough to pique the average person’s interest — at least not for more than a few days. And the reason is simple: people understand the importance of privacy, and would never want their own personal information to be made accessible, but yet, they refuse to believe that they are seriously at risk.

Who in the world would want my information, is what most people ask.

And they’re not wrong. No one probably does. But the moment we surrender the desire to protect our privacy is the moment it ceases to exist. And by extension of that, we also surrender a bit of our freedom.

… says the guy who has detailed his life and thoughts in a blog almost every day for more than six years.

I’ll shut up now.


A few things about guns

At some point we need to come to the realization that our nation is not divided into two groups of people — gun owners and gun control advocates — no matter how much the media, interest groups and just the regular person on Facebook tries to portray it that way.

Because, quite simply, we can’t be that way. Neither from either side want to hear the other speak. Each assume certain things about the other, and it obstructs productive dialogue from ever taking place.

If we really want progress to occur, then we need to understand where we all come from. Only then can it lead to an understanding that there are some things that everybody wants. There is a middle ground.

But that will never come to the forefront if we choose to only see this issue as black and white.

San Bernardino3The eradication of guns will never happen. Nor should it. It’s not only a constitutional right, but the majority of gun owners are honest, law abiding people.

But there are too many loopholes in America’s gun control laws that can be fixed to prevent a certain amount of people from obtaining guns, while not causing too much of an inconvenience for responsible gun owners.

I’ve already opined on this topic, having done a significant amount of research following the mass shooting in Oregon last October, the results of which can be found here, here and here. 

But from all I’ve read in the aftermath of Wednesday’s San Bernardino shootings, what struck me most were three alarming details, which I will present to you and let speak for itself.

People who buy a gun from a licensed seller are required by federal law to undergo a background check. That check occurs instantly, using a system that cross-references various state and federal databases. For the most part, it prevents criminals, drug abusers and the mentally ill from buying guns.

The problem is those who buy guns privately from unlicensed sellers, typically at gun shows, do not go through such checks. And that amount to four of every 10 gun owners.

Indeed, between 2004 and 2014, more than 2,000 terror suspects purchased guns legally in the United States.

Senators have attempted to close this loophole, but the powerful NationalGun laws Rifle Association and its Republican allies have blocked it from ever coming to fruition. Although, there was a bill introduced this year that is trying to address it.

It should be noted, though, that there are some 700,000 people on the FBI list, many of whom are just family members of people suspected to be involved in terrorist activity.

If you think people are being turned off from guns by these repeated mass shootings, think again.

The FBI processed more than 185,000 background checks for gun sales on Nov. 27, more than any other day on record. And that number doesn’t include all those who purchased guns from unlicensed sellers.

If anything, when talk of gun control laws come into the spotlight, people appear to rush out to buy guns out of fear that it will soon become harder to do so. Also, some people respond to mass shootings with the belief that possessing a gun is the best way to protect themselves.

But again, nothing will be accomplished by pointing fingers, placing blame or lumping people into two broad categories.

I think if everyone, gun owners and gun control advocates, Republicans and Democrats, sat down at the table together and had a proactive discussion, we’d realize that there is some common interests that we can agree to act on in order to keep people safe.

At least, we have to hope for that.

We owe Mark Zuckerberg a Social Network Part 2

How many mass shootings will it take for a nation to explore stricter gun control laws?

Sadly, we may one day discover the answer to that question. According to Think Progress, the rampage that occurred in San Bernardino, California at about 11 a.m. local time on Wednesday that left at least 14 people dead was the 352nd mass shooting in America this year.

It means we have about four weeks to squeeze in 13 more so we can match the amount of shootings to calendar days. It’s with the utmost somberness that I say that while simultaneously realizing it may actually happen.

San BernardinoBut plenty remains unknown about the motivation of this deadly incident. So while we wait for that information to matriculate, let’s reserve further judgment and move onto cheerier topics. It is, after all, the night of the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting, or as I like to call it, the night where Al Roker is just there, on my TV screen, and there isn’t anything I can do to stop it.

So what else is going on?

Oh yeah, Mark Zuckerberg is a dick.

Well, at least that’s the takeaway everyone got from the 2010 film The Social Network, which was a really good movie. Let’s be honest. It was dramatic and entertaining with a great musical score. And it also ended up being Jesse Eisenberg’s peak rather than a launching pad to future accolades, as many people thought. What happened, Jesse?

But any ill notion you still may have had about Zuckerberg’s character probably disappeared completely on Tuesday, when he announced he was going to give away 99 percent of his Facebook shares to charity — which total about $45 billion — at some point in his life.

He revealed this in an open letter on Facebook to his newborn daughter, Max, which was probably too long for people to actually read. Including myself.

I don’t care what personality flaws you have, if you’re going to donate yourJesse Eisenberg.jpg entire fortune to charity, then that automatically puts you in the same breath as Mother Theresa. Unless you have asthma. Then it might be two quick, successive breaths, separated by a small wheeze.

But The Social Network, which was based on a book by author Ben Mezrich published in 2009, portrayed Zuckerberg as a cold, selfish, conniving, ambitious, borderline sociopathic back-stabber.

And since it was a movie that most people saw, that ended up becoming the Mark Zuckerberg we all know.

Which is totally unfair. Movies adaptations inspired by real life events are just that: adaptations. It’s not a perfect retelling or a documentary. It’s simply an interpretation that picks and chooses its plot points to fit the desired narrative while amping up the drama to maximize entertainment value.

Zuckerberg-Baby-2Who knows, maybe it is accurate. Maybe he used to be a dick.

But he clearly isn’t one now.

Aside from this ultimate act of philanthropy, it’s also his goal to bring Internet access to the two-thirds of the world that does not have it.

So let’s bring the next chapter of Zuckerberg’s life to the big screen. One that focuses on his humanitarian side. I think we owe it to him. Future generations will rely on movies, and not actual biographical information, to learn about their forebears.

Someone call David Fincher. It’s time to make a sequel.

Although, if we’re going down that road, let’s make a Fight Club 2 first. Then another Se7en.

Followed by a Benjamin Button spinoff.

And then Social Network Part 2. If there’s time.