The FBI recently pressured Apple into creating a special iPhone security override for them — and Apple very politely told them to screw off.

The TL;DR version is that the FBI is having trouble breaking into the iPhone formerly belonging to Syed Farook, one of the shooters involved in the tragic massacre in San Bernardino, California. Apple agreed to help ... but the FBI took this a step further and obtained a court order for Apple to provide a way to bypass several security features on the phone without erasing its data. Apple claims this would involve creating a new version of iOS (which some have dubbed "FBiOS") with a back door that has serious privacy and security implications.

It's not that Apple can't do what the FBI is asking of them; it's that they shouldn't. The company did cooperate by providing the data that was already in their possession. But they were less comfortable with the potential slippery slope of the FBI's override request and the precedent that kind of government overreach would establish for the future.


Apple CEO Tim Cook told the feds as much.

"You want master access to every Apple device? Nah-uh. Not on my watch, pal." Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Stringer/Getty Images.

Regardless of how you feel about the FBI's request, you have to wonder: Why is this only coming up now?

Actually, it's not.

While the iPhone itself has been around since 2007, this specific issue has to do with the new encryption policies Apple introduced with iOS 8 in 2014. "Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access [your personal] data," the company said at the time. "So it's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8."

It's almost like they saw this coming.

And the FBI wasn't happy about it back then, either. As FBI Director James Comey said after Apple's encryption started catching on, "This disconnect has created a significant public safety problem. ... Uploading to the cloud doesn't include all of the stored data on a bad guy's phone, which has the potential to create a black hole for law enforcement."

It's almost like they saw this coming, too. And they've been asking for access ever since.

Photo by Carrrrrlos/Flickr.

Since then, the FBI has tried repeatedly to inch Apple toward their big ask.

This all came to a head in fall of 2015, when the Justice Department asked for Apple's help to crack the iPhone (running iOS 7) of a drug dealer named Jun Feng.

"Apple has repeatedly assisted law enforcement officers in federal criminal cases by extracting data from passcode-locked iPhones pursuant to court orders," the government argued. "Apple has acknowledged that it has the technical capability to do so again in this case."

It's a classic method of manipulation. "Just one more tiny favor, that's all! Just this once!"

This time, it was a drug dealer; but next time, it could just be a kid who illegally downloaded the new Kanye record.

So Apple drew a line in the sand.

Photo by Robyn Beck/Getty Images.

Then the San Bernardino shooting happened.

On one hand, it was the highest death toll since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre three years prior, and an absolute tragedy.

But mass shootings aren't hard to come by in this country, even if there is some debate about what exactly qualifies as a "mass shooting."

There was Dylann Roof, for example, the radical white supremacist who killed nine people at a historic black church in South Carolina. There was Robert Lewis Dear, an anti-abortion radical who killed three people, including a university police officer, and injured nine more at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado.

Elliot Rodger was spurred on by radical misogyny and killed six people and wounded seven others in Isla Vista, California.

And who can forget Wade Michael Page, another radical white supremacist who killed six people at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin? Or Jared Loughner, whose radical right-wing anti-government ideology led him to kill six people and injure 11 more, including a Congresswoman, at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona?

The difference between these and the San Bernardino shootings? Syed Farook represents a unique opportunity for the FBI that the other shooters didn't.

Photo by Robyn Beck/Getty Images.

In case you didn't notice the pattern: the majority of mass shooters in the United States are white extremists.

And the people who were allegedly responsible for the San Bernardino massacre? They were Muslims.

So why did the FBI decide that it was finally the right time to ask for that super-special secret master key that they've been after for years?

Because they could.

Because Islamophobia is on the rise, which makes it easier for them to get the unrestricted access they've been after so they can use it in the future whenever they want, regardless of the "who" or the "why."

Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Stringer/Getty Images.

So while Apple should be applauded for standing up to the FBI and defending our right to privacy, there's another deeply concerning issue lurking in the foreground.

As the face of the anti-surveillance movement said himself:

We know the U.S. government already spends a lot of time and resources spying on Muslims, even without an Apple master key. They do the same to "black extremists" and other left-wing "radical" movements such as Occupy as well.

And for the $500 million spent for every victim of terrorism, 90% of those caught up in this snooping are normal people like you and me.

The government's desire to compromise the privacy of its people under the auspices of "safety" is incredibly dangerous.

Let's refuse to perpetuate the racial fears that make this kind of subtle attack on our privacy possible.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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