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Apple v FBI

People are casting the Apple/FBI controversy as one of Privacy vs. National Security. And acting as if Apple HAS a key, and is just refusing to use it. NO.

The Feds are ordering a private company to make something that doesn't currently exist. They are not offering to pay for it, and they are not giving the company a choice whether to accept the job.

There is no master key. The software is specifically designed so that there is no master key. There are good legal and business reasons for this. One reason arose from the fact that Apple has, in the past, unlocked phones. In some cases, they were compelled, and in other cases they were tricked by scammers. Apple found it to be a liability nightmare, one complicated by the existence of things like European privacy laws, on the one hand, and totalitarian regimes wanting access, on the other. It seemed the best course of action was to NOT have a master key.

Whether that was the right decision, whether there should be a master key or not is a different question. Right now there isn't. Yes, as designers of the security, Apple may be able to design a way to bypass it, but that way does not currently exist, and to make one would be a major research project.

Note that Congress has, several times, failed to pass a law requiring a "back door" for governmental surveillance use. Any back door will almost certainly be found and used by hackers. So now, with this case, the FBI is trying to make an end run around Congress, by trying to apply an overly-broad law from the 1700s that says a court can compel cooperation with authorities (as long as what they ask is not illegal). But even that law has always been interpreted as including the phrase "within reason".

Imagine if the Feds ordered Ford to develop an engine that could withstand having sugar put in the gas tax, because terrorists might be able to disable vehicles by doing that. Oh yes, and Ford has no choice; the have to do it by court order, and for free, or else they're helping terrorists. Wouldn't the Conservative Republicans be the first to shout about "governmental overreach"?

[I wrote this as a Facebook post yesterday, and thought it needed a better forum.]


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 21st, 2016 06:16 pm (UTC)
I'm annoyed that this is even an issue. I posted elsewhere, that if Apple prevails I will make switching to an iPhone a priority because of the increased privacy the iPhone affords.

Did you see the NYT article about the negative impact that Apple yielding to the FBI would have on the people in China.
Feb. 21st, 2016 08:31 pm (UTC)
You might be interested in "Apple, FBI, and the Burden of Forensic Methodology" at http://www.zdziarski.com/blog/?p=5645.
Feb. 22nd, 2016 06:11 am (UTC)
I just logged in to post that as a follow-up! Thanks!

For anyone casually reading this -- it's a forensic expert explaining that if Apple were to develop a tool that would do this, it would be subject to legal requirements for a forensic tool. It would have to be examinable by all sides -- the upshot is that any assurances the FBI makes that they don't have to release the code and that it is for this case only are totally bogus.

Lots more info in that article, that was just one (albeit major) point.

Edited at 2016-02-22 06:14 am (UTC)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )