LGBT Tech is tracking closely recent reports about the FBI’s decision to take Apple to court in order to force the company to unlock a mass shooter’s iPhone. While on the surface this may seem like a worthy and unassailable goal, just a quick look beneath the surface of such a request reveals a host of privacy concerns that could affect the LGBT community specifically. Law enforcement requests that would require that companies build a “back door” to encryption would create built-in vulnerabilities that could lead to more data theft and blackmail from hackers exploiting these back doors.
These issues are of special concern to the LGBT community for a variety of reasons.
LGBT individuals have always been early adopters of technology, especially social media. A recent study found that more than 80% of LGBT respondents utilized social media, compared to 58% of the general population. There are a variety of reasons for this, but one of the most likely drivers of this adoption is that LGBT individuals are seeking tools that enable them to find a community of like-minded individuals and are trying to connect with others that they can identify with. This could be a teenage girl grappling with her sexuality or an elderly man in rural America hoping to finally be able to share who he truly is with someone. For so many LGBT individuals, the friends they meet and social networks they create online are the first place they feel accepted and, often, normal. For some, it is the only positive reinforcement they receive about their sexuality and the only place they feel safe to share their most personal thoughts. Even if someone comes from an accepting, open family, it’s likely that the Internet is the first place they turn to when they are questioning their feelings, trying to figure out what it means to “come out,” or seeking timely medical information. This is no different when it comes to wireless technology and, based on our research, mobile phones are sometimes more important than connecting over wired options. In fact, over 55% of LGBT individuals prefer to use a mobile device over a laptop or desktop.
For these reasons, LGBT Tech remains deeply concerned over the attempts to create back doors that would create vulnerabilities in mobile phones that are so crucial to the LGBT Community and would create data vulnerabilities that could have uniquely disastrous impacts on LGBT individuals. LGBT Tech will continue to track this issue closely and will weigh in as appropriate with policy makers and politicians to ensure the needs of the LGBT community are considered and addressed.