Tech manufacturer Apple has decided to oppose the order of a judge to create loopholes in an iPhone in order to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) access the smartphone of a terrorist.
The FBI has secured the iPhone 5c of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, who killed 14 people in a health facility in California in December.
They wish to see the phone’s contents, including contact numbers, messages, and other details that can trace Farook’s connection with other terrorist groups.
However, because of the screen keypad lock that the FBI team cannot open, they cannot push through with the investigation. One main problem about the lock is that if the FBI fails to guess the right passcode, the iPhone will erase all of its contents, rendering it totally useless for the investigation.
As a result, the FBI asked a judge to issue a court order for Apple to comply.
The request is for Apple to disarm or disable the security feature that would trigger the iPhone to erase all of its contents. Federal authorities did not request for Apple to crack the code, nor did it request the company to extract the information from the smartphone.
However, the Cupertino manufacturer refused, stating that doing what the FBI is asking of them would mean compromising the security and privacy of its users.
In an open letter that Apple CEO Tim Cook released earlier this week, he said that the company is prepared to take on the FBI in a legal case rather than oblige the court order. Cook added that it may trigger a chain reaction issue that would compromise the security of all iPhones.
“In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession,” said Cook in the letter, referring to software that the FBI wants it to create.
The Apple chief executive also said that such a hook in iOS, one capable of bypassing security, could serve as a backdoor. He emphasized that even though the government could argue that the software would be use in limited occasions, no one can guarantee that the software would not be leaked.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai, as well as other executives from Silicon Valley, has expressed his support for Apple’s decision.
In a series of Twitter posts, Pichai said that forcing companies to “enable hacking” would definitely violate the users’ protection policies.
The Google CEO also said that while there are instances where information may be shared with the government based on “valid legal orders”, this is definitely not the case here.
“But that’s wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices & data. Could be a troubling precedent,” he added.
Because Apple stood firm in its decision, the FBI has taken up the case, and would use the All Writs Act of 1789, which is the statute that the Department of Justice cites in this case.
As both parties are preparing their legal arguments towards the case, some reports are surfacing claiming that Apple has already unlocked 70 iPhones for the U.S. government in the past.
However, it was soon clarified that those iPhones ran on older versions where Apple has the ability to directly extract information from the devices. That means the Cupertino manufacturer has not yet hacked into its own iPhone in order to appease the authorities.
Apple has hired Ted Olson and Theodore Boutrous Jr. as its defense lawyers in the case. They are known as the attorneys who successfully challenged California’s stand in banning same-sex marriages.
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