On Tuesday a federal judge ordered Apple to give the FBI technical assistance to recover data from the iPhone 5c that was used by Syed Farook to communicate with his wife Tashfeen Malik before the couple carried out a terrorist attack in San Bernardino in December that killed 14 people.
Apple CEO Tim Cook responded to the court ruling by publishing an open letter that reiterated the company’s opposition to the order.
“The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers … They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone,” Cook wrote.
Sophia Cope, legal expert in civil liberties and staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation told Radio Sputnik that the order sets a dangerous precedent for privacy, particularly since the FBI has already received a lot of information from Apple and network operators about the phone’s data.
“We don’t know what’s on the phone, but civil liberties advocates and technologists think that the FBI is really trying to create a legal precedent through the Justice Department whereby it becomes the norm for the government to force companies to do whatever the government wants in terms of getting information off devices, even if that means cracking a company’s own security feature,” Cope explained.
The FBI wants Apple to disable a security feature of the iPhone that allows an unlimited number of passcodes to be entered without the phone being wiped, as would otherwise happen, Cope said.
“They can’t do that without Apple uploading new software with Apple’s proprietary cryptographic signature that would allow multiple passcode attempts without wiping the phone.”
“I’m sure the government and FBI see the request as the most efficient way to unlock the iPhone but it’s possible that they could do it on their own and that’s why we think the bigger picture issue here is that they’re really trying to create legal precedent.”
Apple was given five days to tell the court whether the order to give technical assistance is “unreasonably burdensome,” and the case could end up before the US Congress.
“This is a very difficult issue, and Congress is going to be paying attention to whatever happens in the courts,” Cope said.