When it comes to the Apple-FBI battle, the Republican and Democratic candidates for president are generally of two minds: a pair of Republicans side with the FBI; the others are more ambivalent. No one sides with Apple unequivocally.
Republicans Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz say Apple should unlock the iPhone. Trump called for a boycott of the tech company in February and said it’s “disgraceful” that the company is not complying with the FBI.
Cruz said he believes the government can “walk and chew gum at the same time.” The government can both keep Americans safe and protect their civil liberties, he said, by applying the same principles that govern search warrants.
He acknowledged that Apple has a “serious argument” about being compelled to build a backdoor in every iPhone. But Cruz insisted that the tech company could build a backdoor in just this one phone. (Apple and technology experts have said if the company builds a backdoor for this phone, the vulnerability would exist on others’ iPhones going forward.)
Former GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio said the issue is complicated and he doesn’t have a “magic solution.” He pointed out that a backdoor could be used by cybercriminals later. Rubio said the government will need to coordinate with tech companies like Apple in the future to figure out an approach that both protects Americans’ privacy and national security.
“It’s a new issue that’s emerged just in the last couple of years,” he said at a CNN town hall in February. “But I do know this: It will take a partnership between the technology industry and the government to confront and solve this.”
Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton was similarly ambivalent at a MSNBC-Telemundo town hall in February. She called it a “legitimate dilemma.”
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders also punted. He said it’s a “very complicated issue.”
Peter Singer, who studies cybersecurity as a senior fellow at New America, said he isn’t impressed with the candidates’ cyber platforms.
“The campaigns have not offered up any truly new and substantive policy proposals for the nation,” he said in an email. “The new policy ideas are either totally absent or can be summed up as little more than vague commitments to ‘lead better.’
“We certainly now know a lot about what candidates think of the wisdom having a web server in your home for work business,” he wrote, alluding to Clinton’s use of a private server during her time as Secretary of State.
Clinton’s website has one paragraph outlining her cybersecurity plans within her larger “national security” platform. She calls for collaboration between the public and private sectors. She also says she’ll push for “strong protections against unwarranted government or corporate surveillance.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s national security platform has a passing, two-sentence mention of cybersecurity, saying the U.S. should strengthen its “cyber defenses” and coordinate with allies.
Trump, Cruz and Sanders do not mention cybersecurity in the platforms provided on their websites.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, known to many Republicans as a policy wonk, had an extensive cybersecurity plan, devoting more than 1,800 words to it on his campaign website. It didn’t seem to matter to voters, though: Bush dropped out in February after a dismal finish in the South Carolina primary.