Editor’s note: How far can government go in exploring an individual’s data in the name of safety? The FBI’s disclosure that it had found a way to crack a terrorist’s iPhone without the help of data raises serious questions about the security and privacy of our personal data, says an expert on technology and cyber security.

Plus: See a Graphiq view of the debate.

“The extraordinary legal fight pitting the Obama administration against technology giant Apple Inc. ended unexpectedly after the FBI said it used a mysterious method without Apple’s help to hack into a California mass shooter’s iPhone,” The Associated Press reported.

“Left unanswered, however, were questions about how the sudden development would affect privacy in the future, and what happens the next time the government is frustrated by digital security lockout features.

“Government prosecutors asked a federal judge on Monday to vacate a disputed order forcing Apple to help the FBI break into the iPhone, saying it was no longer necessary.

“The FBI used the unspecified technique to access data on an iPhone used by gunman Syed Farook, who died with his wife in a gun battle with police after they killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, in December. The Justice Department said agents are now reviewing the information on the phone.”

Mark Skilton, Professor of Practice at Warwick Business School in the U.K., looks into the issue:

“The deeper question ‘is our data safe and private?”

The FBI versus Apple case has left a sour taste. The reported information on it is very scarce as to how they did it, it has in-effect been classified which means that we may never find out. This is a similar legal tool to the All Writs Act that was used by the FBI to push forward a demand for access in the earlier stages rather than resolve the paradox that has arose in how far the government can delve into privacy and citizen rights and protection.

The deeper question ‘is our data safe and private?’ The former may be the case but our privacy seems to be increasingly harder to hold on to in the digital age and is something I forecast will become a bigger issue for all citizens as they try to control and value their privacy better.

I see the FBI versus Apple case has created a possible higher sense of the need for control over personal data and a rise in personal data systems will become ever more critical in the fight to regain access and control to your data whether for public or private means.

To some degree it has continued to reinforce the cyber war that is going on in all sides seeking to find ways to break secure systems, something that is no different to any other arms race for power.

The evidence is that cyber threats are a growing issue that was a core part of the Apple case for not opening up the phone and giving way to potentially more weaknesses. Industry cyber threat reports say this is growing at 66% annually. In the PWC annual global state of information security survey 2015, in financial theft this is over 90% annual growth.  

The issue now is whether this has resolved anything or whether it has simply created a scenario where, ‘if we can get round your defense then that is ok’ appears to be acceptable. 

The caveat, of course, is that this is for legal purposes only, and has been designed to obtain data for anti-terrorism purposes. However, companies will need to continue to address cyber security at a top priority as we live in an era of 24/7 where we are always connected and these firms need to be able to keep most of what is normal privacy away from criminal activity.