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Apple Takes Swing at US Over Demand to Help Unlock IPhone

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 06:43 PM

Apple Inc. took a final swing at the Justice Department as both sides dug in ahead of their first court hearing over whether the company must help investigators unlock an iPhone used by a gunman killed in a police shoot-out.

Apple reiterated its arguments that Congress should decide what law enforcement can do to compel it and others to cooperate in criminal investigations and that the government is making unreasonably burdensome demands on the company. Forcing it to create software to degrade iPhone security features would inevitably endanger the privacy of millions of people, it said.

“This case arises in a difficult context after a terrible tragedy,” Apple said in the filing. “But it is in just such highly charged and emotional cases that the courts must zealously guard civil liberties and the rule of law and reject government overreaching.”

The two sides’ rhetoric had grown increasingly heated in the four weeks since U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym ordered Apple to help the FBI access encrypted data on the phone used by one of the terrorists involved in the December killings in San Bernardino, California. In addition to the back and forth in court filings, representatives of both sides have appeared before Congress and on national TV programs and spoken out online, painting dire pictures of what could happen to national security or civil liberties should the other side prevail.

Apple’s filing is the last scheduled before a March 22 hearing, when Pym will consider the company’s request to drop her order. The device is owned by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, where Syed Rizwan Farook worked. Farook and his wife killed 14 people and wounded 22 at a county training event and holiday party on Dec. 2.

The government has tried to frame its request as narrowly tailored to Farook’s phone. Apple has been backed by a who’s who of the biggest technology companies in the U.S., including Amazon.com Inc., Googleand Microsoft Corp. It argues the Justice Department is really seeking a “master key” to the iPhone in an unprecedented expansion of government power that could affect the privacy and security of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

The war of words escalated last week after the government filed briefs in the California case and another involving a drug dealer’s iPhone in New York.

Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell said the government is taking a “cheap shot” and making “deeply offensive” comments about the company’s efforts to work with foreign and domestic investigations. Meanwhile, the Justice Department accused Apple and its supporters of distorting its request and using rhetoric that’s “corrosive” to the Constitution, the courts and the democratically elected branches of government. Apple’s stance is driven by marketing concerns and a desire to assure customers their privacy is paramount, not by idealism, prosecutors have said in their filings.

The company rejected the Justice Department’s suggestion last week that Apple’s concern about foreign governments requiring similar access as the U.S. was disingenuous.

“Apple has never built a back door of any kind into iOS, or otherwise made data stored on the iPhone or in iCloud more technically accessible to any country’s government,” according to the filing. “The government is wrong in asserting that Apple made ’special accommodations’ for China, as Apple uses the same security protocols everywhere in the world and follows the same standards for responding to law enforcement requests.”

The case is In the Matter of the Search of an Apple iPhone Seized During the Execution of a Search Warrant on a Black Lexus IS300, California License Plate 35KGD203, 16-00010, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Riverside).

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Apple Inc. took a final swing at the Justice Department as both sides dug in ahead of their first court hearing over whether the company must help investigators unlock an iPhone used by a gunman killed in a police shoot-out.Apple reiterated its arguments that Congress...
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Tuesday, 15 March 2016 06:43 PM
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