Apple Says No to Feds Over Compromising its iPhone Security

By Peter Scott February 19, 2016

Apple and most tech companies comply with law enforcement request for data that helps solve crimes. Apple put its foot down, however, when a federal court ordered Apple to create what amounted to a backdoor that would give access to the encrypted iPhone used by Syed Farook, an attacker in the December San Bernardino, Calif. mass shooting.

“The U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone,” wrote Apple CEO Tim in an open letter on February 16. “In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.”

The FBI has not technically asked Apple for a backdoor, but they have requested that the smartphone maker build a custom version of the operating system and load it onto the phone so the FBI can effectively bypass the security measures in place on the phone. Apple says it does not currently have such software, and is expected to resist the request by using the All Writs Act of 1789 that limits the government from asking third parties for more than “nonburdensome technical assistance.”

The tech industry’s response to Apple’s civil disobedience has been muted; Google said that hacking customer devices “could be a troubling precedent,” Facebook and Twitter came out against the request but carefully, and even the group created by Apple, Microsoft and others to protect security freedom, Reform Government Surveillance, was cautious when addressing the open letter by Cook.

No company wants to be seen as against law enforcement, especially during a year of presidential campaigning (Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has already weighed in against Apple for resisting the court order). The stain of antagonism to government could potentially jeopardize government contracts. Further, some worry that Apple’s line in the sand could backfire and set precedent for backdoor exploit requests if the company loses its legal fight against the FBI.

Apple not only is standing by its principles in defending the fidelity of its security measures, however; it also has lots to lose by opening the door for iPhone device encryption, and fighting the court order is less damaging for Apple than for some of its rivals because it doesn’t have a major stake in government sales or using consumer data. Unlike Google and others, it is primarily a hardware manufacturer and not an online services company making its money from customer data. Enabling the potential for hacking the iPhone, on the other hand, might cause consumers to trust the devices less.

So Apple is both standing by its principles and acting in its own self-interest. In the process, it is fighting a battle that most of the tech industry is hoping it will win, even if most are unwilling to stand behind the company publically.




Edited by Rory J. Thompson

TechZone360 Contributor

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Related Articles

Why Blockchain Could Be a Gamechanger

By: Paula Bernier    1/22/2018

Blockchain has become closely associated with the controversial topic of cryptocurrency. And that's fine because blockchain is an enabling technology …

Read More

Consumer Privacy in the Digital Era: Three Trends to Watch

By: Special Guest    1/18/2018

Digital advertising has exploded in recent years, with the latest eMarketer data forecasting $83 billion in revenue this year and continued growth on …

Read More

CES 2018: Terabit Fiber - Closer Than We Think

By: Doug Mohney    1/17/2018

One of the biggest challenges for 5G and last mile 10 Gig deployments is not raw data speeds, but middle mile and core networks. The wireless industry…

Read More

10 Benefits of Drone-Based Asset Inspections

By: Frank Segarra    1/15/2018

Although a new and emerging technology, (which is still evolving), in early 2018, most companies are not aware of the possible benefits they can achie…

Read More

VR Could Change Entertainment Forever

By: Special Guest    1/11/2018

VR could change everything from how we play video games to how we interact with our friends and family. VR has the power to change how we consume all …

Read More