Apple is back again to fight the uphill battle to prevent the government from accessing smartphones. Back in 2015, the company refused to unlock or help the FBI to unlock a smartphone that belonged to a shooter and the same situation has presented itself again.
According to Attorney General Bill Barr, Apple has refused to unlock the iPhone of the gunman Mohammed Alshamrani, who killed three people, wounded more, and was shot dead himself last year. AG Bill Barr criticized Apple for not helping with the investigation and provided “no substantive assistance”. Barr declared the shooting as an act of terrorism but noted that Apple refused to honour it. The company cited its longstanding policy of not breaking encryption or providing law enforcement with a backdoor.
Back in 2015, Apple was faced with a similar situation and the company declined to follow court order citing its policy of not breaking encryption. FBI then went on to sue the company for contempt of court but withdrew the case later as it found a way to unlock the phone without the help from Apple. It was later revealed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein who oversees the FBI, that the agency paid a whopping $900,000 to an undisclosed third-party to unlock the iPhone.
The same situation could unfold again as Apple has denied the FBI’s request to unlock the iPhone. Apple has already provided the law enforcement with iCloud data and credit card information of the shooter but has refused to bypass the encryption.
We have always maintained there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys. Backdoors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers. Today, law enforcement has access to more data than ever before in history, so Americans do not have to choose between weakening encryption and solving investigations. We feel strongly encryption is vital to protecting our country and our users’ data.
– Apple (via Buzzfeed News)
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been backing Apple ever since the issue first began. They have noted that giving law enforcement the ability to unlock phones could enable bad actors elsewhere.
There is simply no way for Apple, or any other company, to provide the FBI access to encrypted communications without also providing it to authoritarian foreign governments and weakening our defenses against criminals and hackers.
– Jennifer Granick
Immediately after the incident, US President Donald Trump tweeted showing his support for the FBI and criticized Apple at the same time.
We are helping Apple all of the time on TRADE and so many other issues, and yet they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements. They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country, NOW! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2020
However, it looks like FBI won’t back down easily this time around. According to The New York Times, FBI. was still trying to gain access to the phones on its own and approached Apple only after asking other government agencies, foreign governments and third-party technology vendors for help, to no avail.