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Apple or the FBI… whose side are you on in the iPhone privacy battle?
So is Apple fighting for everyone's liberty? It is defying the US government's request that it must help open up the iPhone of the terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, because the software so created will compromise the integrity of every iPhone. Or is it another example of a hi-tech company bogusly invoking the threats to privacy mounted by the new digital age as a marketing strategy – and carelessly putting the lives of every citizen a little more at risk?
The US is riven by the argument, with the need for security counterbalanced with the need for personal privacy. Donald Trump has called for a boycott of Apple products, while most – but not all – of California's tech giants have lined up behind Apple. It is an argument that Britain needs to have with no less urgency. These issues confront us too, in a country perhaps far too ready to trade off personal freedom before any call for security.
The FBI wants the details of Farook's last months of calls for obvious reasons: it will reveal the extent to which he and his accomplices were lone operators or part of a terrorist network operating in the US; if the latter, there could not be a more vital interest than knowing who they are. The trouble is that the iPhone is so encrypted that the call history cannot be disclosed without the right password and will close down once 10 wrong passwords are entered. It will need special software, written by Apple, to get at what the justice and police authorities need so desperately.
The FBI and Justice Department have been careful to insist that they don't want general software. They are targeting the iPhone of just one terrorist and need Apple's one-off support to open it. President Obama, steering a path between the needs of privacy and his government's appetite for surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden, has on this case come down on the side of security. A federal judge has backed the FBI and ruled, following the All Writs Act of 1789, that the rule of law is everyone’s business: the young American republic wanted to establish it was a republic of laws and thus it was the duty of any person or any business, even if not involved directly in a case, to ensure court orders were executed. The court has ruled that Apple help the FBI in the name of the rule of law.
But Apple CEO, Tim Cook, in a letter to his customers that everyone should read sets out powerful reasons why his company should not create what would in effect be a back door not just to Farook's iPhone but to everyone's. Smartphones have become our civilisation's indispensable personal data treasure trove – details of our contacts, finances, health and private conversations are all housed in one device. As he writes: "The government suggests this tool (special software to open the phone) could only be used once, on one phone. But that's simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks – from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable."
Source: The Guardian
Facebook, Google and WhatsApp plan to increase encryption of user data
Silicon Valley's leading companies – including Facebook, Google and Snapchat – are working on their own increased privacy technology as Apple fights the US government over encryption, the Guardian has learned. The projects could antagonize authorities just as much as Apple's more secure iPhones, which are currently at the center of the San Bernardino shooting investigation. They also indicate the industry may be willing to back up their public support for Apple with concrete action.
Within weeks, Facebook's messaging service WhatsApp plans to expand its secure messaging service so that voice calls are also encrypted, in addition to its existing privacy features. The service has some one billion monthly users. Facebook is also considering beefing up security of its own Messenger tool. Snapchat, the popular ephemeral messaging service, is also working on a secure messaging system and Google is exploring extra uses for the technology behind a long-in-the-works encrypted email project.
FBI may have found way to unlock San Bernardino iPhone without Apple
A court hearing designed to force Apple into compromising its security systems for the iPhone was cancelled Monday at the request of federal authorities, who said they potentially had another way into the San Bernardino shooter's phone. The astonishing reversal kicks the can down the road in what had become the climax of a two year battle over digital privacy between the US government and Silicon Valley. At the same time, the standoff between Apple and the Justice Department drew so much attention that policymakers or another court may weigh in soon regardless.
The government has until 5 April to determine whether it wants to pursue the case. Apple's attorneys, in a conference call with reporters, said they do not consider the development a legal victory and warned they could be back in the same situation in two weeks. The attorneys spoke on the condition of not being quoted by name. The company's lawyers said they were as surprised as anyone and learned of the development in an afternoon phone call.
The government's potential solution raises its own questions: if investigators figure out a way to hack into the device without Apple's help, are they obligated to show Apple the security flaw they used to get inside? Attorneys for Apple, which almost assuredly would then patch such a flaw, said they would demand the government share their methods if they successfully get inside the phone.
US ends case against Apple after pulling data from San Bernardino iPhone
The US government on Monday dropped its court fight against Apple after it successfully pulled data from the iPhone of San Bernardino gunman Syed Farook, according to court records. The development effectively ends a six-week legal battle that was poised to shape digital privacy for years to come. Justice Department lawyers wrote in a court filing Monday evening that they no longer needed Apple's help in getting around the security countermeasures on Farook's device.
"The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook's iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc", the government said. It then asked the court to vacate a 16 February court order demanding Apple create software that weakened iPhone security settings to aid government investigators.
The Guardian has reported that the technique used by the government has been classified.
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