【英语财经】硅谷企业应该走下云端 Silicon Valley should step out of the cloud

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2016-3-11 23:10

小艾摘要: The other day the Financial Times reported that Apple wants to disable its own access to the iCloud, thus making it impossible for the company to comply with legal warrants for customer data. You coul ...
Silicon Valley should step out of the cloud
The other day the Financial Times reported that Apple wants to disable its own access to the iCloud, thus making it impossible for the company to comply with legal warrants for customer data. You could reframe this goal: America’s most valuable company is looking for technical fixes that will allow it to defy the elected politicians, law enforcement bodies and judges responsible for the nation’s security. If Apple does not like a law, it will invent some computer coding to circumvent it.

Tim Cook would probably not put it quite like that. Yet the Apple chief executive has elevated his fight with the Federal Bureau of Investigation over access to an iPhone belonging to one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terrorist outrage into a struggle between liberty and tyranny, privacy and intrusion.

Mr Cook says that to accede to the FBI’s request that Apple write a piece of code to permit access to data on the phone would be to create “the software equivalent of cancer”. Hundreds of millions of customers would be put at risk. “This is not about one phone,” he told ABC News, “this is about the future.”

A victory for the FBI would threaten “everyone’s civil liberties”. This is vaulting language from the chief executive of a company that, when all is said and done, is in the business of making luxury-end digital gadgets. Apple is innovative. Its products look nice. But civilisation would survive the absence of iPads and iPhones.

The FBI says that the San Bernardino case is sui generis. It is not asking Apple to hand over any coding and the company can destroy the code once the handset is accessed. Mr Cook’s motives, it suggests, are not entirely altruistic. In the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks, Apple has seen privacy and encryption as powerful marketing tools. Unfashionable as it may be post-Snowden, I tend to agree with the FBI that the natural tension between privacy and national security “should not be resolved by corporations that sell stuff”.

Apple sets itself apart from the tech pack — Mr Cook often accuses the rest of harvesting and selling personal data — but on this issue the company has won the backing of most of Silicon Valley. Apple and Google have also been joined by Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft in lining up on the other side of the Atlantic against a planned British law to codify the state’s access to data.

As in the San Bernardino case, the companies say the UK government is seeking “back doors” into their technology that would undermine security for customers. They argue that the British law would set a precedent for authoritarian states. I am not sure that President Vladimir Putin has ever waited for Britain to take the lead before brushing aside personal freedoms and data privacy in the name of the Russian state.

It is perfectly proper and legitimate, of course, for Mr Cook to challenge the FBI in the US courts and there is nothing to say that technology companies should not lobby, like any business, against laws they do not like. He is right, also, that there is a vital debate to be had about the proper balance between personal privacy and collective security.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the pendulum probably swung too far in the direction of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. At the very least there was insufficient transparency about the extent to which governments had adapted to the digital age by accessing — then, incidentally, with the willing co-operation of Apple and others — personal communications and data. Tighter oversight was necessary.

Mr Snowden’s revelations risk shifting the balance too far in the opposite direction. Civil libertarians might say otherwise but the storage of metadata does not amount to digital mass surveillance. What matters are the conditions under which such data can be searched — the safeguards, legal authority and reporting responsibilities that militate against misuse of personal information while allowing the state to protect its citizens.

My guess is that there is no perfect balance and even if there was, it would probably be overtaken soon enough by newer technology. Intelligence agencies will always want too much access, while civil libertarians, and nowadays the tech companies, will stand at the other extreme. The best that politicians can do is update the frameworks and ensure that the courts have effective oversight.

Mr Cook seems to think Apple can stand above such a democratic process. If it loses the argument, it will find a way around the law. Apple is not alone. To listen to Google, Facebook and the rest is to hear corporations that have come to believe their own propaganda: as custodians of the digital future, theirs is a higher calling that should grant them immunity from the meddling of courts or the judgments of elected politicians.

The inflated sense of self-worth is not confined to the realm of privacy. It explains the indignation with which the companies greet demands that they pay a fair share of corporate tax. For Mr Cook it is the US government’s fault that Apple shelters tens of billions of dollars in offshore tax havens. Google seems genuinely shocked when British politicians take umbrage at the way it shuffles off to low-tax Ireland billions of dollars in profits made on its UK sales.

For all Mr Cook’s messianism, the tech giants are in business to make money. They have a valid point of view — just like everyone else. But, no, Silicon Valley does not inhabit a higher plane, and Apple’s profits should not trump democratic choices about security.

近日英国《金融时报》报道,苹果(Apple)打算禁用其自身对iCloud的访问,这将使该公司无法遵从要求获取用户数据的法庭令。你可以重新描述一下这个目标:美国最有价值的公司正在寻求作出技术调整,使其能够违抗对国家安全负有责任的民选政治人士、执法部门和法官。如果苹果不喜欢某项法律,它将发明一些计算机代码来绕过它。

蒂姆?库克(Tim Cook)很可能不会这么说,然而这位苹果首席执行官已将他与美国联邦调查局(FBI)就解锁圣贝纳迪诺(San Bernardino)恐怖暴行中一名枪手的iPhone的争执,上升为自由和暴政、隐私和侵犯之争。

库克表示,听从FBI的要求编写一段代码以访问那部手机上的数据,就像是编写“等同于癌症的软件”。数亿用户将被置于危险之中。“这关乎的不是一部手机,”他告诉美国广播公司(ABC News),“这关乎未来。”

FBI的胜利将威胁“每个人的公民自由”。这是这家公司首席执行官的夸大之词,而它说到底不过是一家生产高端数码产品的公司。苹果很有创新性。它的产品看起来很棒。但就算没有iPad和iPhone,文明也会存续下去。

FBI表示,圣贝纳迪诺案是个特例。FBI不会要求苹果交出任何代码,该公司可以在解锁那部手机后立即销毁代码。FBI认为,库克的动机并非完全出于利他主义。在爱德华?斯诺登(Edward Snowden)泄密事件后,苹果将隐私和加密视为强有力的营销工具。虽然在后斯诺登时代这么说可能有点不够时髦,但我倾向于认同FBI的说法:隐私和国家安全之间的天然紧张关系“不应该由一家卖东西的公司来解决”。

苹果将自身超脱于科技行业之外——库克经常指责其他科技公司获取和贩卖个人信息——但在这次的问题上,苹果赢得了大多数硅谷企业的支持。在大西洋的另一边,Facebook、Twitter和微软(Microsoft)加入了苹果和谷歌(Google)的行列,反对英国计划出台的一项将政府对数据的访问权写入法律的法案。

就像在圣贝纳迪诺案中一样,这些公司表示,英国政府在寻求侵入它们的技术的“后门”,这会削弱用户安全。它们认为英国的这项法律将为威权国家树立先例。但我很怀疑,弗拉基米尔?普京(Vladimir Putin)以俄罗斯国家之名把个人自由和数据隐私抛到一边之前,曾等过英国来带头。

当然,库克在美国法庭上挑战FBI是完全正当合法的,科技公司像其他任何公司一样为反对它们不喜欢的法律而游说,这种行为也无可非议。库克声称应该就个人隐私和集体安全间的合理平衡进行一场关键辩论,这也是正确的。

在“9/11”恐怖袭击以后,平衡很可能朝着执法和情报机构的方向移动得太远了。至少关于政府已在多大程度上通过访问个人通信和信息——顺便一提当时是在苹果和其他公司愿意合作的情况下——来适应数字时代,透明度还不够。更严格的监管必不可少。

斯诺登的泄密可能又使平衡朝着相反的方向移动得太远。推崇公民自由的人士或者会说并非如此,但存储元数据并不等同于数字化大规模监控。重要的是在什么情况下这些数据可以被搜索——设置什么样的保护措施、法律授权和汇报职责来阻止个人信息被滥用,同时使国家能够保护其公民。

我猜想,不存在完美的平衡,就算真的有,也很有可能在短时间内被更新的科技压倒。情报机构总是希望拥有过多的访问权限,而公民自由人士和当今的科技公司则站在另一个极端。政治人士所能做的最好的事情就是更新法律框架,确保法庭能进行有效的监管。

库克似乎认为苹果能够立于这个民主过程之上。如果苹果在论战中失败,它将找到绕过法律的办法。苹果并不是唯一这样认为的公司。听听谷歌、Facebook和其他公司的说辞,你会感到这些公司已经开始相信自身的宣传:作为数字化未来的守护者,它们拥有更为高尚的使命,这应该允许它们不受法庭干预、不受民选政治人士的评判。

这种膨胀的自我价值感不仅限于隐私领域。这解释了这些企业在有关部门要求它们缴纳合理份额的企业税时的愤愤不平。对库克而言,苹果将数百亿美元藏在海外避税港是美国政府的错。在英国政治人士愤慨于谷歌将其在英国销售所得的数十亿美元利润转移到税率较低的爱尔兰时,谷歌似乎真的很震惊。

尽管库克摆出了救世主的姿态,但这些科技巨头做这行是为了赚钱。它们的观点很合理——就像其他任何人一样。但是,不,硅谷并不占据更高的层面,苹果的利润也不应该凌驾于有关安全的民主选择之上。

译者/石斛

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