Kathryn Lindsay
March 14, 2016 5:17 am

Luckily, the biggest problems most of us have with our phones involve losing them in our couch cushions or accidentally butt-dialing our parents. That’s because there’s a whole part of technology that everyday users don’t really think about: encryption. It’s a complicated subject that John Oliver broke down during Sunday’s Last Week Tonight.

Encryption code protects our email, banking, and—the thing currently under national debate—access to our smartphones. That four-digit code that iPhone users enter to get into their phones to play Candy Crush while waiting for the bus can be the key to finding out vital information stored on the phone. But is that something law enforcement and the FBI should be allowed to access?

As John Oliver explained, the current debate centers around the phone of Syed Farook, the gunman in the San Bernardino shooting back in December 2015, whose phone likely contains information pertinent to the event. The current debate centers around Apple and how the company could create a code that would bypass the encryption, allowing law enforcement to try out as many four-digit codes as possible without locking or erasing the data on Farook’s phone. Apple argues that doing something like this puts other people’s phones at risk, setting a precedent for future (and past) cases and overall diminishing the privacy of users who trusted Apple with just that.

The situation is extremely nuanced and the world is pretty divided over which way to turn. However, it’s opened up a much larger conversation about privacy and just how fragile these phones can be.

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