Apple vs FBI encryption debate over iPhone 5c: Now battle moves to Congress

Apple is engaged in a battle with the FBI over a court order to unlock an iPhone 5c. Tim Cook has defended the company's stance and here's look at where things stand currently.

By: Tech Desk | Updated: March 2, 2016 1:11 pm
Apple vs FBI, San Bernardino shooting, Apple San Bernardino case, Apple, iPhone 5c, Apple iPhone 5c, iPhone 5c encryption, Apple Tim Cook, Tim Cook vs FBI, San Bernardino shooting case, technology, technology news Apple CEO Tim Cook has called their stance against the FBI iPhone unlocking order as the right thing to do.

Apple is engaged in a battle with the FBI over a court order to unlock an iPhone 5c. Apple CEO Tim Cook has already written a letter to all their customers (it was posted on the company’s website), and called the court order a dangerous precedent. The company has filed an appeal against the order, asking that it be scrapping.

Here’s a look at the whole stand-off between Apple and the FBI.

FBI gets court order asking Apple to unlock iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino shooters

In an order dated February 16, 2016 United States Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym asks Apple to provide “reasonable technical assistance” to investigators.

This includes helping to bypass an auto-erase function that gets activated when the wrong pin or password is entered for a fixed number of times; allow FBI to submit unlimited passcodes via a computer, a programme or whatever protocol they determine; and ensure that the Apple software doesn’t purposely add any additional delay between password attempts to unlock the device.

Apple is also required to load a specific iOS recovery file on to the device so that FBI can recover the passcode. This version of iOS will ensure that the auto-erase function doesn’t get enabled. FBI basically wants to ensure that it doesn’t spend an indefinite length of time trying to unlock this iPhone.

Apple CEO Tim Cook writes a letter to all customers 

On February 16, the day the order comes out Apple CEO Tim Cook makes it clear that the company won’t be be complying with what it calls an ‘unprecedented’ order.

CEO Tim Cook letter titled ‘A Message to Our Customers’ says the government’s demand, and the order have “implications far beyond the legal case at hand”.

Also see: Apple vs FBI: Why the company does not want to unlock the iPhone 5c

Cook says the order basically tells engineers who’ve worked to ensure that the device is secure and encrypted, must now work to weaken those same protections. This, according to Cook, allows FBI a backdoor entry into the iPhone, sets a dangerous precedent, and puts consumer data at risk from hackers and cyber criminals.

The letter goes on to say, “The government would have us remove security features and add new capabilities to the operating system, allowing a passcode to be input electronically. This would make it easier to unlock an iPhone by “brute force,” trying thousands or millions of combinations with the speed of a modern computer.”

Apple iPhone 5c, Apple vs FBI, San Bernardino shooting, Apple San Bernardino case, Apple, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5c encryption, Apple Tim Cook, Tim Cook vs FBI, San Bernardino shooting case, technology, technology news Apple has challenged the FBI order saying that it sets a dangerous precedent.

It adds, “The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”

Sundar Pichai tweets in support of Apple, Tim Cook 

Tim Cook first found support from Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, who said on Twitter that “Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy.”

Don’t miss: Apple vs FBI in iPhone 5c battle: Bill Gates appears to side with govt

Pichai wrote, ” We know that law enforcement and intelligence agencies face significant challenges in protecting the public against crime and terrorism. We build secure products to keep your information safe and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders. But that’s wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices & data. Could be a troubling precedent.

Cook also found early support from WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum who said in Facebook post, “We must not allow this dangerous precedent to be set” and shared Tim Cook’s letter. Read more here.

Facebook, Twitter come out in support of Apple 

Facebook and Twitter, two of Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies backed Apple in its fight against FBI over the iPhone 5c break-in.

In a statement, Facebook said, “We will continue to fight aggressively against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems.”

Twitter’s CEO and founder Jack Dorsey tweeted, “We stand with Tim Cook and Apple (and thank him for his leadership)!”

Bill Gates appears to support govt in the FBI vs Apple case 

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates gave what appeared to be a unclear statement on the Apple vs FBI saga. In an interview with the Financial Times, Gates indicated that he had an issue with Apple CEO Tim Cook’s argument that helping crack the shooter’s iPhone would set a broader precedent. He was quoted as saying, “They are not asking for some general thing, they are asking for a particular case.”

Also see: Apple vs FBI: Why Google, Facebook, Twitter are supporting Tim Cook

But Gates later said that he was being mischaracterised by the media as backing the FBI. “The extreme view that government always gets everything, nobody supports that,” he told Bloomberg News. “Having the government be blind, people don’t support that.” Read more here.

US govt says Apple can retain possession of iPhone 5c, and destroy the OS used to unlock it 

The US govt told the judge that it would be willing to allow Apple to retain possession of and later destroy specialised iOS version software it has been ordered to design.

“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,” the Justice Department told Judge Sheri Pym. “No one outside Apple would have access to the software required by the order unless Apple itself chose to share it.” Read more here.

Apple fights backs, challenges court order of iPhone 5c unlocking 

Apple struck back in court against a US government demand that it unlock an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters, arguing such a move would violate its free speech rights and override the will of Congress.

Arguing that the court should throw out the order that it issued last week, Apple said in its brief that software was a form of protected speech, and thus the Justice Department’s demand violated the constitution.

“The government’s request here creates an unprecedented burden on Apple and violates Apple’s First Amendment rights against compelled speech,” it said. Apple also contended that the court was over-stepping its jurisdiction, noting that Congress had rejected legislation that would have required companies to do the things the government is asking Apple to do in this case.

Must read: Apple strikes back, asks judge to vacate order on ‘unlocking’ iPhone

“No court has ever authorised what the government now seeks, no law supports such unlimited and sweeping use of the judicial process, and the Constitution forbids it,” Apple said in its filing. Read more here.

Tim Cook defends stance in FBI unlocking case 

Apple CEO Tim Cook got a standing ovation at his first stockholder meeting since his company’s epic clash with the FBI unfolded. He defended the company’s unbending stance by saying: “These are the right things to do.”

Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft to offer support in court 

Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter will all file or sign on to amicus briefs in support of Apple Inc’s fight against a magistrate’s order, which requires it to help the US Federal Bureau of Investigation break into a San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone.

Reuters reported that Google and Facebook would make filings. Microsoft will file a friend-of-the-court brief as well, company President Brad Smith said in Congressional testimony Thursday. also said, it will support Apple Inc’s fight against a magistrate’s order. Read more here.

Apple vs FBI: Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon plan briefs in support 

Apple gets supports from New York Judge in a different case 

In what can be a boost for Apple’s arguments against San Bernadino case iPhone unlocking order, a federal judge in Brooklyn, New York has ruled that the government can forced the Cupertino-tech giant to unlock an iPhone 5s.

US Magistrate Judge James Orenstein in Brooklyn ruled that he did not have the legal authority to order Apple to disable the security of an iPhone that was seized during a drug investigation.

The government sought access to the phone in the Brooklyn case in October, months before a judge in California ordered Apple to take special measures to give the government access to the phone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino, California, attacks. Read more here.

Apple lawyer vs FBI Director in Congress panel 

FBI Director James Comey told a congressional panel on Tuesday that a final court ruling forcing Apple Ito give the FBI data from an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters would be “potentially precedential” in other cases where the agency might request similar cooperation from technology companies.

He also acknowledged that it was a “mistake” for the FBI to have asked San Bernardino County officials to reset the phone’s cloud storage account after it was seized. The decision prevented the device, which was owned by the county, Farook’s employer, from backing up information that the FBI could have read.

Meanwhile Apple’s general counsel, Bruce Sewell argued that, “This is not about the San Bernardino case. This is about the safety and security of every iPhone that is in use today.”

With agency inputs