[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Friday filed [motion, text] a motion to compel Apple [corporate website] to unlock the encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters [CNN report]. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official website] is seeking Apple’s help to access Syed Rizwan Farook’s phone, but the tech company has refused. In a letter [text] to its customers on Tuesday, Apple explained,
When the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it. Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as we have in the San Bernardino case. We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal…. [But] in today’s digital world, the “key” to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it. Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge…. We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.
While the DOJ describes Apple’s rhetoric as simply a “marketing strategy,” the tech company has been joined by Google [NBC report], one of its largest competitors, in standing against the order. Complicating the situation, a report surfaced [ABC report] earlier this week that the iPhone in question had its iCloud password changed while in government custody. A California federal court has been scheduled to hear the motion on March 22.
The clash between the US government and Apple gets at the core of the worldwide argument over surveillance. Earlier this month, the Intelligence and Security Committee of the UK Parliament released a report [JURIST report] outlining its concerns with the proposed Investigatory Powers Bill that plans to expand data collection and Internet spying, which it believes “is handicapped from the outset in terms of the extent to which it can provide a clear and comprehensive legal framework to govern the use and oversight of investigatory powers.” The bill drew opposition [JURIST report] from US tech companies as well. Domestically, in January the NYPD reached settlement agreements [JURIST report] in two civil rights lawsuits accusing the NYPD of wrongfully monitoring Muslims after the 9/11 attacks.