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Tim Cook vs. FBI – 3 Takeaways & Opportunities for Entrepreneurs

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Tim Cook vs. the FBI – 3 Takeaways and Opportunities for Entrepreneurs!

The case: Mr. Terrorist uses iPhone in life and possibly in crime. Mr. Terrorist dies. The iPhone lives. FBI botches the process to peep into the phone (they admitted this week that they should have used ‘forgot password’ since they have access to Mr. Terrorist’s email accounts). FBI tells Apple to crack open the iPhone for them, by handing them a special software.

Tim Cook tells them to Muck Off. (you get the drift)

Is Tim Cook being cocky and hyper-unreasonable by not helping the FBI and thereby the US Government?

Let’s consider another analogy:

Let’s assume that Mr. Terrorist had used a Samsonite bag while committing the crime and that bag’s lock’s combination disappeared with the death of Mr. Terrorist. Should the FBI demand from Samsonite a special combination sequence that opens all Samsonite bags because they need to look inside? The same example could be applied on our personal belongings.

In the courts, the first round has been won by Apple but the FBI will not rest easily. And this essay is not about who is right. This is about what Tim Cook is really saying.

Read his note to Apple consumers posted on the Apple site here.

My training is to sniff an opportunity in everything and anything that I see around me, and here are 3 points and ideas:

1. Technology is now more powerful than the Government.

This case is that tipping point when the Government can’t do anything about an encryption that they cannot crack. Governments can storm homes; raid buildings and drop bombs on nations, but a small little iPhone has boxed them in a corner.

Entrepreneur takeaway? Serve the demand side! Governments are the largest spenders in the world. There is a massive opportunity for entrepreneurs to build ‘SnoopTech’ for government and make billions from it. SnoopTech will not be brawn – it will be brain and pricing for the same will be indiscriminate (not based on costings, etc).

Now don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying ‘SnoopTech’ will be the hackers version of sniffing mails and WhatsApp chats that you wanted to keep private and hand them over to the government – rather it’s the business of ethical hacking that can be offered, one case at a time, to governments for a fancy price.

2. The Business of Walled Gardens

If you think about it, there has always been a streak (and demand) for Companies, Individuals and Groups to stay independent and avoid being policed and monitored by Governments.

Think Tax Havens – Isle of Man and the Cayman Islands are divine places where you can incorporate Companies and never get audited beyond a level. Swiss Banks, till recently, had a ‘sacred veil’ of never disclosing its account holders. Bitcoins has taken the business of currency exchange to another level. So why not a new business model of ‘snoop-proof communication’ where no one (not even the SnoopTech entrepreneurs I proposed above) can ever discover what you are upto?

Entrepreneur Takeaway: Service the supply side! Think of building the ‘SSC’ – Super Secret Cloud that consumers could spend 1$ a month to use to store everything they wanted from ever getting discovered? Don’t you think 1 million users (in a world of 3 billion Internet population) would sign up the first month?

3. Digital Escrow Agent:

Apple and the FBI have already spent millions on litigating this simple yet incredibly significant case. I am not sure if the FBI will simply shrug its shoulders and say “okay, we give up”. The lawyers are going to make a windfall on this one.

While this is a heavy-duty case, be sure of many more to follow.

Entrepreneur Takeaway: Can there be a Business Case of setting up a ‘Digital Escrow’ service? Think being in between Demand and Supply. Real world Escrow Services are million dollar businesses in the world. Any large transaction in the world where ‘value is exchanged’ is routinely routed via Escrow Agents who in turn are governed by a fine set of rule and regulations.

What is the future of The Escrow Agent? Storing Digital Value obviously. Someone is going to create soon!

What are your takeaways of this case and how do you suggest leveraging it?




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1 Comment

  1. 1. Snoop Tech – It is indeed a good idea but few things need to be brainstormed before jumping.

    • Cracking the system would become really difficult very soon this kind of thing takes off. Companies like Apple, Google etc. will go to any extent to protect their system and remove any possibility to crack it.
    • Demanding / Extracting fancy price from Government will not be an easy task and realization of money will be a long process.

    Having said that, the idea is being explored today by few entrepreneur successfully. I came across of one recently while reading the mail exchange between Vijay Mallaya and Sunday Times UK. Both were using “Proton Mail” which offers a layer of encryption so that none can read the mails except the sender and recipient. 

    2. Walled Garden – Yes as long as it serves the powerful and rich who can keep the government’s mouth shut. If it scales and it will, if its open for general public, the government will use its muscle to bring it down. See the problem Bitcoin is facing today. The government will never let its power go off from the people. So what needs to be taken care while venuring into something like this? 

    • Build something which doesn’t require any centralised service / solution /server. Like something P2P kind of. I am not sure how the monetization will work with something like this.
    • Find a safe heaven and run it from there. (Seeing the Wikileaks issue, not a lucrative solution.)

    3. Digital Escrow Account: I am not very sure how you are connecting the litigation case between FBI and Apple with this. Aren’t Paypal or Ebay are the same like Digital Escrow Agent for small guys? For large value transaction for big guys, I am sure there will be many such services. 

    I must be missing the idea you are proposing here so please explain it a bit.

    All the point I have written above is just to open up the discussion and not meant to be sounded pessimistic (Which I am sure it does 🙂 ).

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