Apple Refuses to Unlock Terrorist’s iPhone, reads the headline. Headlines have a way of confusing the truth. The iPhone in question belonged to Syed Farook, one of the perpetrator of the San Bernardino shooting. The FBI has his iPhone and wants to see what’s inside. Apple already provided them technical assistance and the contents of an iCloud backup. But Apple can’t unlock the phone because Apple doesn’t have the key.
When you lock your screen with a simple 4-digit code, that code also locks down the phone. No one can get inside without knowing the code. Why not try every code until one works? That would be easy, so Apple made phone locks hard to pick. The FBI’s solution: obtain a court order requiring Apple to write a special version of the operating system that makes the lock easier to pick. The FBI believes that the All Writs Act from 1789 gives them the authority to make such a demand.
Once created, such software could be court-ordered by the FBI every single time they want to open an iPhone. And not only the FBI: every intelligence agency in the world will ask for it, including Russia and China. And not just governments: criminals are always looking for holes they can exploit. What happens when a company is punching holes in it’s own security? This is why Apple calls it “the software equivalent of cancer.”
It’s also why the FBI cares about this case. Intelligence agencies think they should have access to whatever they want whenever they want it. They will use whatever means they can to get their hands on anything. The only limits they respect are ones Congress has created and the courts enforce. And that’s why this case matters to the American people.Read More