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UN rights chief warns against forcing Apple to unlock San Bernardino shooter's phone

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein warned [press release] US authorities on Friday of the potentially widespread ramifications of forcing Apple to unlock the San Bernardino gunman's iPhone. Zeid urged authorities to understand that a ruling against Apple in the US would set precedent worldwide and make it "impossible for Apple or any other major IT company to safeguard their clients' privacy anywhere in the world." He stressed that encryption and anonymity are tools that enable human rights defenders, civil society, journalists, political dissidents and whistle blowers to express their freedom of expression and opinion. Zeid said that security forces and criminals worldwide would seek to take advantage of the ability to access privately held information for the wrong reasons. He concluded his statement by noting that although the issue of security is focused on unlocking the phone in order to investigate terrorism, the larger danger is encryption protections that are weakened and threaten national and international security.

Earlier this month a judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York denied a Department of Justice (DOJ) request to order Apple to disable the security of an iPhone that was seized during a drug investigation. At the end of February Apple filed [JURIST report] a brief in the US District Court for the Central District of California in opposition of the US government's request for the company to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter, Syed Rizwan Farook. Counsel for Apple called the case "unprecedented" after the DOJ filed [JURIST report] a motion to compel Apple to unlock the encrypted iPhone. In response to the legal conflict, Apple Inc. asked [JURIST report] the US government to create a panel of experts to discuss issues of security versus privacy. These developments came after Apple refused the initial court order to assist the government in unlocking the iPhone from one of the San Bernardino shooters. The court order required [JURIST report] Apple to supply software to the FBI to disable a self-destruct feature that erases phone data after 10 failed attempts to enter the phone's password.

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