The Developing Story
Apple Inc. is now facing yet another conflict with the U.S. federal government as the latter stated that it would force the company to open an iPhone involved in a recent New York drug case. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the government continues to require the assistance of Apple in accessing the data that is authorized by a search warrant.
In line with this ongoing issue, Apple issued a statement through one of their legal counsels, saying that although disappointed, the company is not surprised by this movement, following what happened a few months ago after they stood firm to their decision not to unlock an iPhone used by one of the two terrorists in an attack in San Bernardino, California, where 14 people were gunned down at a party last December. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) identified one of the gunmen as Syed Farook who was then using an iPhone 5C. This phone was particularly important to the FBI because it may hold pieces of information that will help them solve the case.
Opposing Points of View
Apple refused to unlock the phone even under the orders of the U.S. Magistrate Sheri Pym to build a custom version of its iOS software that will run only on this specific iPhone. The company’s chief executive officer (CEO) Tim Cook argued that the order had gone too far and that bypassing the password means creating a “back door” in its operating system that could be used to unlock hundreds of millions of iPhones, thus undermining the security and privacy of its users.
The company stated that it is “certainly possible to create an entirely new operating system to undermine our features as the government wants” but Apple’s point was they cannot just circumvent the protection of this single phone and expect other phones to stay safe and secure from all kinds of security breaches. According to Cook, this order is equivalent to a master key, capable of opening a countless number of locks all around the world.
However, the FBI stood strong in saying that what they are requiring Apple to do is a way of fighting terrorists who are now using modern means of communication and technology to wreak havoc and cause chaos. They also stated that this order is a reasonable one so they may gain evidence but Apple would not cave in because all the company cared about was their business model and brand.
With regards to the custom iOS version being requested, the government filed on February 19 that, “Apple may maintain custody of the software, destroy it after its purpose under the order has been served, refuse to disseminate it outside of Apple, and make clear to the world that it does not apply to other devices or users without lawful court orders.”
Despite this statement, Apple executives believed that once this version is created, it would appear like appealing eye candy for hackers. And they would not risk putting their servers in jeopardy because once a technique is produced in the digital world; it could be used countless times on all kinds of devices. In addition, if ever they comply with the orders of the FBI, the company saw this as a “dangerous precedent” wherein the government might resort to asking this in the future to bypass any security feature that keeps law enforcement from accessing the latest iPhone model.
In March, the FBI dropped its request for Apple to crack the iPhone used by Farook, saying they had found alternate methods to unlock the phone without the help of the company.
The New York Case
This drug case in New York involves another iPhone, belonging to a man identified as Jun Feng, that according to reports is much easier for Apple to break into. The DOJ is hoping that Apple will cooperate this time to unlock the phone so they may locate accomplices since they acknowledged that it could extract data from the phone without having to create custom software.
This persisting battle involves more than just iPhones. And while this issue still sparks debates and arguments, the question left unanswered is “How will Apple and the government see eye to eye?”
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