The fight between Apple and the FBI over privacy ended in an unexpected way with FBI finding a way to unlock an iPhone without help from Apple, allowing the agency to withdraw its legal effort to compel the tech company to assist in a mass-shooting investigation. Apple’s battle with FBI seems to be over; however, a number of major issues raised from this case still remain unsettled. A national debate is provoked about civil liberties, collective security and privacy. That is, in this cyber age, can personal privacy be guaranteed? Or is a compromise on privacy a product of this cyber age?
Privacy has been a pain point nowadays. Another hot issue which draws national attention is the case of Hulk Hogan. The retired wrestler Hulk Hogan was awarded $115 million in damages last Friday in an invasion of privacy case against Gawker.com over its publication of a sex tape — a shocking number which tops the $100 million he had asked for. Hulk’s team said the verdict represented “a statement as to the public’s disgust with the invasion of privacy disguised as journalism,” adding: “The verdict says, ‘No more.’ ” What could be drawn is that the lawsuit could send a cautionary signal to online publishers.
The two cases together didn’t yield a direct answer to the question: to what extent is personal privacy protected in the age of internet?
In the era of big data, the battle for privacy seems rather hard. Yet, no one can stay out. Personal data is routinely collected; information leak happens everywhere; an intimate photo goes viral on the web overnight. Data trading is the new economy and there are few effective controls over how the data is used or secured.
The quarrel over this Apple case has surely gone far beyond the effect of an iPhone. Instead, it shows mass concern about personal privacy in cyber age. “If we are to protect personal privacy and keep people safe, 21st century technology must be governed by 21st century legislation,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, said in the earlier statement. “What’s needed are modern laws passed by our elected representatives in Congress, after a well-informed, transparent, and public debate.
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