Apple stared down the FBI and won [telecom]

By Brad Reed

When news first broke that the FBI wanted Apple to build an insecure version of iOS to help the agency access the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, I wrote that Apple needed to be careful to avoid the government's clever public relations trap. It seemed that law enforcement officials wanted to use a high-profile act of terrorism as a way to create political pressure on Apple to comply with its demands and set a precedent for future cases. While I believed Apple was right to resist such demands, I also thought there was a chance this could backfire since no one wants to be seen as impeding an investigation that could prevent future terrorist attacks.

However, Apple stared down the FBI and won this fight for the best possible reason: It had the facts on its side.

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Kudos to Mr. Reed for getting the facts straight: as we've seen, some other reporters didn't bother.

IANALB, it seems to me that the court case the FBI brought against Apple will (if it is ever resumed) boil down to the question of precedent: whether or not any person or company has been forced to help decode an enciphered or encrypted document.

After all, a search warrant entitles police to seize documents, but I have never heard of a court ordering a defendant (or, in this case, a blameless third party) to deliver plain-text copies when an enciphered version was seized.


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Bill Horne
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