Why government wants the iPad to succeed

I’m defending the iPad. Not because I’m an Apple fanboy. Not because I’m going to buy one. But because I think there’s potential to positively change the personal computing experience in a way that helps government sleep better at night. I’m not talking about the iPad itself, but what the App store can become via the iPad.

Currently, the way most us connect to the web is through the browser, which was meant to only take you from point A to B. Unfortunately, the world wide web is a dangerous place if you don’t know how to navigate. Every day, innocent consumers fall prey to malicious scams and phishing schemes, and there isn’t much the government can do to protect them.

With the App Store, not only do you access the internet without going through a browser, but the barriers to entry for service providers should theoretically weed out illegitimate third parties. With a structured vetting process (at least security-wise, theoretically) and a crowdsourced reviewing process, there really isn’t an incentive for virtual predators to get on the App store. For the time being, you could be pretty confident that your apps aren’t trying to steal your personal information or plant bugs into your device.

But the App store is only limited to the iPad and iPhone. Is that enough to really call this a win for internet security?

Yes, the App store is only available to the relatively small number of internet users with pockets deep enough to afford the Apple products. But perhaps, the overwhelming success of the App store would lead Apple to consider expanding to the personal computing platform as an alternative to the browser.

No, the browser is not going to be replaced anytime soon. And internet security on your browser or mobile device will never be completely bulletproof. But for certain types of online activity, such as financial transactions, account creations, or anything that requires personal identifiable information, wouldn’t we feel more comfortable knowing that the servers and personnel on the other side of these transmissions are really who they say they are, and will really do what they say they’ll do?

About Jon Lee

Trying to put the GO in eGOV for the Texas Department of Information Resources. Background in Sociology from UC Berkeley and Technology Management from University of Texas, Austin. Grew up outside of Los Angeles, lived in the Bay Area for a few years, and now a naturalized Texan, without the boots and gigantic eagle belt buckle. Connect with Jon on Twitter and his blog.

3 Responses

  1. Sorry, but what exactly does this have to do with the government? If some form of regulation or public education can help improve the internet security of citizens, then there is an opportunity for the government to get involved. Otherwise it seems that they should be as neutral as possible when it comes to technology and entertainment products.

    The argument that a system is more secure just because it is a walled garden seems weak. If anything, it may lead to increased security risks, as a handful of store moderators are unlikely to do enough rigorous tests to ensure that a product is truly secure. And when people assume that any apps they download through Apple are completely trustworthy, it seem like they would abandon common-sense practices that they would otherwise use to keep their data secure online.

    What is the basis of the argument that custom applications would be more secure in handling financial information? Really, there seems little chance that they could be more secure than common open source browsers, which are subject to the toughest of scrutiny by hundreds or thousands of skilled programmers. When implementing secure systems online, the most insecure method is writing custom code instead of using development frameworks that are written and tested by security experts.

  2. Jon Lee

    Mike, I knew this post was going to spark some differing opinions, so thanks for your post.

    My whole point is that since government cannot do much to protect people from what happens online, one way to lead to a safer experience is to introduce a new vehicle for tapping into the internet.

    I’m not saying an iPad or iPhone is going to be bulletproof, and I agree with you that there are more security vulnerabilities with mobile devices, but I think we’re coming from two different perspectives.

    My perspective, and sorry for not making this clear, is from an average internet user who may not be savvy enough to recognize scams and social engineering tactics. I’m thinking about my mother who uses google to discover new sites and look for new ways to interact online.

    If she wanted to find information about sewing, she could easily get tricked into giving up personal information or signed into a junkmail account. If she went through the App store, she can find sewing information based on third parties that have already been vetted by Apple.

    Yes, open source browsers are secure and if you know how to navigate, you’ll be just fine. But this isn’t a technology issue; it’s the users lack of education that get them into trouble.

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