The FBI v. Apple case has been brewing for months now in a seemingly never ending battle for device privacy. In February, the FBI attempted to pressure Apple into aiding them in unlocking San Bernardino shooter and terrorist Rizwan Farook’s iPhone 5C.
In response, Apple released a statement regarding the events, saying that, “building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee control.” They also specified that they were afraid of setting a precedent of allowing government agencies to access information on others’ phones through a different software.
“While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect,” Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said as a closing to his open letter on the Apple website.
The main argument for the FBI in court was the All Writs Act which could compel Apple to hand over security decrypting services on their devices. The All Writs Act, passed in 1789 as part of the Judiciary Act, entails, “the Supreme Court and all courts established by the Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”
If the FBI had won their case instead of retreating, they would have set an arguably dangerous precedent for other technology firms and their customers. The precedent would have been able to force all technology companies to provide access to their products on request of other agencies.
However, after enlisting with some help from an undisclosed third party in March, they have said they will not need Apple’s help with the iPhone 5C’s decryption anymore. Although they assured they decrypted the iPhone 5C, they said they would ask for Apple’s help again when they need assistance with other iPhone models.
In response, Apple is preparing for a “legal challenge” to the courts to disclose how they successfully broke into the device.
Nevertheless, another case is now rising to media attention. The case in question regards unlocking the phone of a major drug dealer in New York. Although the suspect has already plead guilty, the FBI is still pressuring to gain access to the phone to catch other drug dealers. And even though the New York judge has already affirmed the FBI does not have the right to force Apple to comply with their demands, the FBI has said they will still try.
The events surrounding the FBI v. Apple case will determine the extent of the government’s access to information stored on respective pieces of technology. This case will likely be used as a precedent to how future issues surrounding privacy and phones will be dealt with under the law.