Apple and the FBI: User Privacy and Law Enforcement Cooperation

by: Andrew Hoffman

Publication Date: June 22, 2020
Length: 12 pages
Product ID#: 2-190-513

Core Disciplines: Ethics, Information - Technology & Management, Leadership/Organizational Behavior, Social Impact, Strategy & Management

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Teaching Note

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In the wake of a mass killing in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015, the FBI requested that Apple unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters. Thus began a dilemma for both Apple and the FBI, each of them with storied histories that intertwined data and individual rights to privacy.

Apple faced a fundamental question made more difficult by the competing interests of a publicly-traded company: what is the best action for society and the public good? What precedent would Apple be setting if it complied with the FBI’s request? If the company refused to comply, would it be standing in the way of preventing further attacks?

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Understand how businesses and governments approach working together to solve challenging problems.
  • Evaluate the growing power of the FBI in the United States since the 9/11 attacks.
  • Compare and contrast the conflicting priorities faced by businesses from stakeholders including shareholders, media, public, customers, regulators, and other government authorities.
  • Assess how businesses might navigate controversial political issues while maintaining stakeholder interests.
  • Construct solutions and make decisions in complex environments with competing priorities, including issues with moral implications.