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Apple, the FBI and ‘the most dangerous question in America’

Mark Cuban

When the contentious issue of government surveillance is brought up, a common sentiment expressed by individuals who see no problem with expanded state surveillance powers typically goes as follows: If you have nothing to hide, why do you care?

While this line of reasoning appears sound at first blush, it inevitably results in a slippery slope where governmental surveillance has the freedom to run wild, completely unchecked by any other considerations.

Recently, Mark Cuban, the outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks, penned a post articulating why the oft-asked question “What do you have to hide?” is, in practice, the most dangerous question in America.

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While the inspiration for Cuban’s post came from Ted Cruz daring Donald Trump to release his taxes with a “What do you have to hide?” remark, the meat of Cuban’s argument can just as easily apply to Apple’s ongoing dispute with the FBI over a terrorist’s locked iPhone. That particular debate, which you’re likely already familiar with by now, effectively seeks to find a balance between user privacy considerations and national security. So while Apple has brought up slippery slope arguments in the press and in its legal filings, supporters of the FBI’s position tend to view such arguments as fear-mongering. After all, the reasoning goes, what does it matter if the FBI, or any agency for that matter, can spy on your phone if you have nothing to hide? And if you really have nothing to hide, the reasoning continues, isn’t surveillance a small price to pay for helping the government prevent terrorist attacks?

“What do you have to hide?” Six seemingly innocent words Mark Cuban thinks are extremely dangerous.

Here’s why.

If as law abiding citizens 99pct of us have nothing to hide, why do we need all the protections from government that our constitution provides ?

Why not just let the police come in to our homes any time they would like? What do we have to hide ?

Why not let the government confiscate our phones or computers for a day or two ? What do we have to hide ?

Why not let the government monitor what we say or do ? What do we have to hide ?

Why do the innocent need attorney client privilege ? What do you have to hide ?

Again, the basis for Cuban’s post centers on whether or not a Presidential candidate should be obligated to release his or her taxes. It’s an entertaining read written in Cuban’s characteristically blunt style. Make sure to hit the source link below to check out the post in its entirety. Whether you agree with Cuban or not, he does make a number of interesting points.

As for Cuban’s own thoughts on Apple’s saga with the FBI, he made his thoughts clear on that particular topic a few weeks ago.

Here is my response to Apple’s refusal:

Amen. A standing ovation. They did the exact right thing by not complying with the order. They are exactly right that this is a very, very slippery slope. And while the FBI is attempting to be very clear that this is a one off request, there is no chance that it is. This will not be the last horrific event whose possible resolution could be on a smart phone. There will be many government agencies that many times in the future, point to Apples compliance as a precedent. Once this happens, we all roll down that slippery slope of lost privacy together.

If you think its bad that we can’t crack the encryption of terrorists, it is far worse when those who would terrorize us can use advanced tools to monitor our unencrypted conversations to plan their acts of terror.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.