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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Will the Apple-FBI dispute hurt attempts to lure innovative tech to the federal market?

The Apple iPhone debate has centered on the balance between national security and individual privacy.

The phone in question belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters, and the FBI wants to gain access to the data on the phone so they can further their investigation.

It’s a worthy desire, but the fear from Apple and privacy advocates is opening up a Pandora box of problems.

I’m not qualified to lead a discussion on the nuances of privacy and national security, but I think there might be a little collateral damage from this legal battle between the federal government and one of America’s most innovative tech companies.

Innovative commercial companies have often seemed reluctant to do business with the federal government. They don’t understand the rules, the requirements and, above all else, the culture.

The Apple dispute only makes this worse.

And this comes at a time when the federal government is reaching out to hotbeds of commercial innovation such as Silicon Valley to lure them to the federal market.

The New York Times has two stories today that brought this home to me today. One was a story where FBI officials said they made a mistake by resetting the iCloud password of the iPhone in question because they thought it would give them access to data they wanted. Instead, it locked them out. 

The subtle message to Silicon Valley is that the federal government is technologically inept.

The second story is about White House officials, particularly Attorney General Loretta Lynch, speaking at the RSA Conference in San Francisco this week. The headline says it all: White House Officials Soften Approach at RSA Conference.

The Times described NSA Director Michael Rogers as attempting a “conciliatory tone” during his speech where he asked for partnership and dialogue. [Our sister pub, FCW.com, has more on Rogers speech.]

At an event like the RSA Conference and its encryption-heavy audience, there is a lot of distrust of the federal government, in light of the disclosures by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

The FBI probably doesn’t care – nor should it – if the fight with Apple has a chilling effect on business between commercial companies and the federal government.

But it’s also reasonable for a commercial company to think once or twice before jumping into the federal market, given the atmosphere potentially being created by the FBI-Apple fight. You have to ask the question, can you trust your customer?

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Mar 02, 2016 at 10:27 AM

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