The FBI has ordered Apple to unlock the iPhone 5c of Syed Rizwan Farook who together with his wife Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people and wounded 22 ohters at the San Bernardino County Public Health Department on December 2, 2015; but Apple through its attorney Ted Olson said it would not comply with the order because it would endanger the privacy of millions of Apple customers within and outside the country.
Olson, a former US solicitor general under President George W. Bush disclosed that Apple has cooperated fully with the government in its investigations in every way required by the law, but the company would draw the line where it is asked to re-create codes and destroy the security of the iPhone as it is.
But FBI Director James Comey replied that the world would not come to an end with unlocking the phone of the terrorists, saying his agency has the search warrant to unlock the phone and that Apple is required by law to assist in this regard. Comey said this request would not violate the privacy of anyone nor put a master key to unlock millions of iPhones in the hands of terrorists.
The class between the FBI and Apple underscores the controversy that has dogged the issue of digital privacy in the face of national security.
Farook and his wife had armed themselves with combat rifles on the day of the attack, but they were later liquidated by police in a shootout.
The FBI claims a message pledging allegiance to Islamic State had appeared on Farook’s Facebook page that same day – raising the need for further investigations since the assailant appeared to have used his iPhone to communicate with some of his victims before carrying out the attack.
The FBI said the iPhone may contain critical communication that cannot be accessed without erasing the data altogether because of Apple’s encryption technology.
“The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that's simply not true,” wrote Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook.
“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,” Cook said.
Apple is ready to go to the Supreme Court over this issue because it is not ready to build a backdoor to the iPhone as the government requests, but the FBI insists it only wants Farook’s iPhone to be unlocked while Apple can keep the software for itself.
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The ping-pong continues and may end up at the Supreme Court.