Out of several factors that play a significant role in the success of the company, business ethics is surely one of the most important aspects of long-term organizational success. It not only has an impact on how well a business performs in the long term but also for the holistic progress for any society. The significance of ethics cannot be undermined because firstly, operating a business in an ethical manner at all levels is valuable in itself as it builds a stronger bond followed by creating stability within and outside the company. Secondly, the legal regulations by governments cannot solely resolve all the key problems of business and lastly, because ethics are important for efficient and proficient operating as well as the promotion of the economy.

however, a survey conducted recently by the Institute of business ethics revealed that around 40 % of the British public has a belief that organizational behavior, in general, is not ethical. This can be easily seen through corporate failure or scandals highlighted every year which ultimately raises questions regarding the way these corporations are managed and operated. Such unethical behavior by corporations not only leads to financial disastrous but also creates a negative image about the company among its shareholders and other stakeholders.

The present study examines the ethical dilemma faced by one of the renowned corporation Apple Inc. in late 2015 when it refuses to help FBI due to some privacy concern. The initial part of the study will provide a discussion about the ethical dilemma faced by company followed by application of certain theoretical concepts from managerial ethics to examine this dilemma critically.

THE CASE: APPLE vs. FBI (2015-2016)

In late 2015, the foreign bureau of investigation (FBI) ordered Apple Inc. to access the data or information stored in the one of its i-phone 5c. The FBI attained such i-phone from one of the shooters in an ISIS-inspired terrorist attack that took place in San Bernardino, California. The FBI believed that his i-phone could contain certain crucial information regarding his future plans or regarding his partners in crime from overseas countries etc. The FBI needs the backdoor program to be created by the company Apple Inc. because, after 10 consequent unsuccessful tries of entering passcode, all the information from the phone will be permanently blocked. But the negotiations were soon broke down by the company Apple on the grounds that creating a backdoor to i-phone is too dangerous and could compromise the privacy of i-phone users. This sparks a major controversy between national security and protecting user’s privacy. Representatives from both the sides offered several arguments both in favor of their party and against other party’s stance. Various top technology companies like Google or Facebook back Apple Inc. and offer several fronts against the court’s order that threatened the privacy of its customers. On the other hand, arguments that are in favor of justice department’s efforts claimed that the law allows authorities to get access to information that leads to prevention and prosecution of any kind of criminal activities.  However, no conclusion was drawn making FBI drop the case as it is not possible for them to circumvent the encryption of i-phone without the company’s help.


Moral theories are yet another tool to help an individual clearly and logically think about an ethical issue, and arrive at a decision that can be rationally defended. These theories range from Utilitarianism to deontological theories or from individualism to virtue ethics theory. Theoretical aspects from managerial ethics that can be applied to examine this Apple vs. FBI dilemma is as follows:


This theory bases anything to be morally right on the basis of the consequences of any action. In a simple sense, rightness or wrongness of any moral act depends upon the non-moral good that is being produced in the consequence of that particular act. From a utilitarian perspective, the decision taken by Apple to protect consumer privacy over national security was for the welfare of its customers and thus cannot be treated as morally incorrect. Such decision allows the company to brought happiness as well as loyalty to its customers ultimately improving the sales of the company. The company was not ready to volatile its customer’s privacy at any cost because creating backdoor might leads to many future problems to its customers if hacked or misused by anyone. However, the company perhaps could find a way to help the FBI in cracking the hardware code without compromising the user’s privacy or security. In this regards, the company was also accused of being too interested in protecting its brand, and even unpatriotic for refusing to comply with the court order.


This theory bases anything to be morally right on the basis of the universal laws that exist outside of a specific situation. Or in a more simple sense, an action is said to be morally right not on the basis of the product or output that action produces but just because the act in itself is morally good. From a Kantian perspective, refusing FBI to unlock Farouk’s phone would primarily be the best ethical outcome. Although the phone might contain certain vital information regarding that case, it may or may not prevent the attacks in future. But on the other side, creating a backdoor to i-phone will definitely undermine the security of millions of i-phone users. So, the Kantian would likely want Apple to refuse to help FBI in unlocking farook’s phone.

In this case, the million of i-phone users could continue to trust company for their information to be kept private and secure. Though it does not allow company Apple to help the national justice in farook’s case, it is still possible for FBI to access information from farook’s phone but far slower. Overall, the decision was taken by Apple so far is the safest route in terms of the Kantian theory of ethics.


It could be summed up hereby that such ethical dilemma that Apple faces were really critical from the point of view that it put so many stakeholders of the company Apple Inc. at risk. On one side, the i-phone users are at the risk of privacy and security while on another side, the general American population was at the risk of future terrorist attacks or other criminal activities making it difficult for the company Apple Inc. to choose one option over another. The critical evaluation of the case from the perspective of two significant ethical theories found that the apple’s action in the said case is perfectly understandable as well as justifiable. The company has spent so many years in uplifting its privacy and security features of i-phone and thus, is a reason enough to choose the customer’s privacy over FBI’S request.

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