Apple Scores Victory in Fight Over Encryption
As we posted previously, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has gone on the offensive to oppose a government order that Apple develop code to assist the FBI in its efforts to access a iPhone used by the shooters in the December San Bernardino attack.
Apple immediately won the support of Silicon Valley, but public opinion appeared to be split. A Pew Research Poll found a majority (51-38) supported the FBI position, while a Reuters poll favored Apple (46-35).
Apple has filed a brief challenging the order noting that if it is forced to comply with the order it would be creating a new vulnerability that others could be exploit while also making it harder for Apple to resist similar or more invasive orders by countries such as Russia or China. In most cases developing this code would be unnecessary since their is always the iCloud backup, but an error by investigators have foreclosed this option.
Apple argues that if Congress intended the All Writs Act to include compelling such activity it could have done so as it did in the 1994 Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act.
In a separate case, a New York federal judge agree with Apple on the All Writs Act, noting that Congress is very much aware of this issue and has chosen not to act. The court also was concerned that granting the request could lead to a slippery slope.
Nothing in the government’s arguments suggests any principled limit on how far a court may go in requiring a person or company to violate the most deeply-rooted values to provide assistance.
FBI, Apple Battle on Capital Hill
The Apple-FBI battle moved to a new venue this week – Congress. The issue has led to legislation to create a independent National Commission on Security and Technology Challenges to study the issue.