With the San Bernardino shootings still fresh in everyone’s mind, the recent court controversy between Apple Inc. and U.S. law enforcement is becoming quite the legal showdown. In efforts to find possible leads, links, and further evidence in connection with the San Bernardino shooters, the FBI has turned its focus on an iPhone belonging to the husband and wife in question.
But, to no avail. Apple implants security features that lock individuals from accessing a phone after too many failed password input attempts. The FBI has attempted to circumvent Apple’s security features through the U.S. court system. However Apple is staunchly fighting the court order, opening a Pandora’s Box of complex legal battles between federal authorities, and the tech giant.
Using a 227 year-old statute signed by President George Washington himself, a federal judge has ordered Apple to break the encryption code that locks an iPhone belonging to one of two shooters that killed fourteen people in San Bernardino on December 2015. The courts have mandated that Apple create a new IOS operating system that would allow a “back door” of sorts to iPhones and their security safeguards.
Apple, committed to its company policy of prioritizing customer privacy, refuses any and all mandates that may compromise customer privacy. The 227 year old statute in dispute is the All Writs Act of 1789. According to Danny Lewis of the Smithsonian, the law “gives federal judges the power to issue orders to compel people to do things within the limits of the law.”
Originally part of the Judiciary Act of 1789, the law is designed to grant broad power to federal judges attempting to issue court orders “agreeable to the usages and principles of law.” The FBI argues that Apple’s cooperation in the matter will open a new outlet for possible evidence affecting the case. Such evidence can even help prevent further attacks if connected individuals and organizations are apprehended thanks to the new evidence.
Apple however argues that the court order can unveil a new and dangerous precedent violating privacy rights for individuals in this country. Theodore J. Boutrous, Apple’s lawyer spearheading the case, says the mandate is in direct violation of First Amendment Rights. “The government here is trying to use this statute from 1789 in a way that it has never been used before. They are seeking a court order to compel Apple to write new software, to compel speech,” quoted the LA Times.
Additionally, the new court order will also compromise individuals by creating a “backdoor” access to other devices and their motherboards, leaving customers prey to hackers and other digital predators. In other words, the FBI as well as other groups, will have future access to data that was once privately secured.
Joseph Menn and Julia Love of Reuters write that this legal battle could push for the development of government-proof devices. Barriers engineered to safeguard against future government intrusion are imminent, setting the stage for further animosity between the federal government and tech companies. Whether the FBI wins its case or not, law enforcement is sure to face future hurdles from tech industry giants.
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