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iPhone Unlocking Debate a Classic Case of IT Knowledge Gap

iPhone Unlocking Debate a Classic Case of IT Knowledge Gap

Thursday, March 3, 2016/Categories: errors-and-omissions

In reference to the Apple-FBI iPhone unlocking case, data security guru Rob Graham tweeted out:

"Asking software engineers to create malware/backdoors is tantamount to asking doctors to violate the Hippocratic oath."

While the story is making headlines as a heavyweight battle over the privacy rights of 21st-century Americans, in a lot of ways, it’s just another example of people not really understanding how tech works.

"Asking software engineers to create malware/backdoors is tantamount to asking doctors to violate the Hippocratic oath." – @ErrataRob

This knowledge gap – between IT professionals and the larger non-tech community – actually represents one of the biggest professional liabilities IT businesses have. To understand why the tech / non-tech knowledge gap is such a big deal, let's review the facts of the case:

  • The FBI is seeking to unlock the iPhone of the killers in the San Bernardino shooting.
  • The agency initially requested to reset the iCloud password, thinking it could then unlock the phone (according to the New York Times).
  • However, this actually locked the phone and made the data inaccessible.
  • Apple has refused the FBI's request to allow them into this phone.
  • A hearing is scheduled for March 22.

What the FBI and Your Clients Have in Common

Raise your hand if a client has ever asked you to create software that was just impossible. Or how about if a client asked for one solution that solved a dozen problems?

In much the same way, the FBI is asking Apple to create a product that is secure except for one little feature that allows the agency in. Apple, like Graham, is saying this is simply not how data security works. From its perspective, a boat with a hole in it is not much of a boat at all.

In a lot of ways, the FBI is a classic case of a nightmare client. It’s asking Apple to change everything it's doing to suit the agency's needs, and it’s asking Apple to provide an impossible tech solution.

Technology Errors and Omissions Implications of the Apple iPhone Lawsuit

From a risk management perspective (which, let’s face it, is our favorite perspective here at TechInsurance), the Apple iPhone lawsuit provides a clear example of one of your major Errors and Omissions risk: not being on the same page as a client.

We call this the “knowledge gap.” You know what your tech is. You know how it works. You know its limits. But your clients may not. They may have impossibly high standards for your work. Or they may be looking for a tech solution that simply doesn’t exit.

When you’re not on the same page as client, vendor, or business partner, you open your business up to an Errors and Omissions lawsuit, which may happen when…

  • Miscommunications lead to delivering IT that doesn’t meet a client’s specs.
  • Clients are disappointed because they had unreasonable expectations for your IT.

Here’s how IT businesses and developers can protect their E&O liability.

Errors and Omissions Insurance: Protection for Knowledge Gap Lawsuits

Errors and Omissions Insurance covers lawsuits when a client sues you over your IT. That means that whether you’ve made an actual error, left something out (i.e., made an omission), or a client merely thinks you haven’t delivered what you promised, E&O Insurance can cover your legal bills.

While your business probably won’t be facing any lawsuits from the FBI any time soon (we certainly hope not, anyway), Errors and Omissions lawsuits are a real possibility.

If you’re looking for more info on E&O coverage, visit our resources on the cost of Errors and Omissions Insurance for data on what the typical IT consultant pays for small business insurance.

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