What the Apple vs FBI debacle could mean for your privacy

Given the high profile spat between Apple and the FBI over data held on an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters who killed 14 people in December, the individual right to privacy has once again come into question.  While the FBI tries to coerce Apple into putting what many are calling a “backdoor” into its encryption – the very protection put in place to ensure peoples’ privacy – the tech and security industries are up in arms trying to figure out what such a precedent could mean for the future.

Where does the public stand in the debate?

At Comparitech.com, we wanted to try and get a feel for public opinion on the matter, as the press around the issues has mostly focused on what the technology industry and government think about the subject. As such, we conducted a OnePoll survey of one thousand members of the British public and found that in actual fact, 60% of the population believe that, when it comes to national security, the government should be able to monitor mass communications; and 49% went so far as to say that national security is more important than an individual’s right to privacy.

It certainly seems the public is far more trusting of the government than IT pros, as when AlienVault asked the same questions to IT and security professionals, it found that only a third (34%) thought that the government should be able to surveil mass communications.

This is quite a large disconnect and perhaps raises more questions than it answers. Mainly, who’s “right”?

Why should I care about my digital privacy?

Regardless of the answer, both studies make it a little clearer that perhaps it is high time the public starts taking their privacy a little more seriously – particularly as one security expert, Amar Singh, has pointed out: “Let’s not forget that no government has a stellar record in protecting their own information. If technologies are updated to allow free access for the government, then criminals will no doubt be able to obtain the same; and there are even tools that help make this easier.”

In other words, if the government can read your communications, you better believe that cyber criminals can, too.

Where can I find out more about protecting my privacy online?

There is no shortage of tools that you can download on your devices to help with privacy.  At the very least, they make users a more difficult target for cyber criminals and hackers – narrowing their playing field.  We have compiled a list here of over 75 free privacy protection tools which we will keep updating as we find new tools we like.  In addition, last month, we published a guide to improving security on smartphones and tablets and you can read more here on how to encrypt and protect your emails from prying eyes.