The war between Apple and the FBI rages on. This week, Apple asked the court to throw out the order to unlock the iPhones belonging to the perpetrators of the San Bernardino shootings.
Apple created a legal brief outlining why the government’s request violates the U.S. constitution. It accuses the federal agency of misinterpreting the law protecting free speech. Apple’s legal counsel used the brief to outline the ways that request violates both the first and fifth amendment. The team also accused the government of misinterpreting the All Writs Act. The act is a 227-year-old law that gives the court the ability to help fulfill government orders.
Apple also accused the government of invoking the name of terrorism. It says the FBI is using fear to try to scare the firm away from a thoughtful debate or critical analysis.
Apple’s attorneys said that the government is seeking “the ability to force companies like Apple to undermine the basic security and privacy interests of hundreds of millions of individuals around the globe.”
The brief is in response to the government’s request that Apple provide the software to create a backdoor to its products. Apple’s response attempts to position the company as resistant to the government’s indifference for privacy. It maintains that these consumers’ freedom of speech is at risk because of the court order. It also suggests that the U.S. is committing a kind of cyberattack against Apple device owners.
Apple’s encryption methods keep users’ financial records, person information, location data, photographs, credit card numbers, calendars, and beliefs safe from prying eyes.
The brief also outlined Apple’s commitment to supporting law enforcement. It highlighted the company’s previous cooperation with data requests that it deemed “legally valid.” It also noted the company’s participation in the case in question.
The Justice Department is also pursuing other orders to force Apple to extract the data from at least 12 other iPhones.
The government’s response to Apple’s brief is to paint a different picture. It accuses Apple of prioritizing sales and marketing over protecting the country from terrorism. The government maintains that it wants only to investigate the San Bernardino case. A spokesperson stressed the point regrading it as the deadliest domestic terrorist attack since 9/11.
The Justice Department maintains that it is a reasonable request. It suggests that Apple has chosen an inopportune moment to leave a previously happy working relationship.
The government also maintains that it does not want a back door, just the ability to access one specific device. Essentially, the FBI wants to have the ability to guess the password for the phone.
Previous cases allowed Apple to extract the data without unlocking the phone. The newest iOS encryption software does not allow this.
But what sounds simple really isn’t. It actually requires Apple to write a code undermining the integrity of its own system.
The FBI says that Apple can destroy the code created for the iPhone when it’s no longer necessary.
Apple remains unconvinced. Erik Neuenschwander, the firm’s user-privacy chief, reminded the government that once Apple creates the code, it exists forever. It is easy to recreate the code even if the original code is gone.
Apple would have to stay on top of the original system to ensure that neither the government nor anyone else use it again.
Facebook and Twitter agreed to stand behind Apple’s brief. Microsoft’s legal counsel said it will do the same. Alphabet is also expected to support Apple.
The case is just getting started and thus far, it has primarily been a PR battle. However, the high-profile nature of this case presents a moment for the industry to redeem and reaffirm its commitment to the value of user privacy.
[Photo By Stephen Lam/Getty Images]