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Home » Turner Law Offices Blog » Apple Claps Back As Government Pushes For “Backdoor” On iPhones

Apple Claps Back As Government Pushes For “Backdoor” On iPhones

apple-sanbernardino-fight-fbiIn a groundbreaking ruling, the United States government has demanded Apple help the FBI break into one of the San Bernardino shooter’s encrypted iPhone. Why? Because they think it might hold information that could potentially prove useful in the fight against terrorism.

Sounds reasonable, right? So why did Apple respond with a fat, unadulterated “NO?”

Well, the answer isn’t simple. What else is new. Apparently, the only way for the FBI to break into Syed Farook’s iPhone is by literally trying every possible combination of passcode until it unlocks. As any iPhone user knows, this can only be done so many times before it makes you wait to try again. What some people might not know is that iPhones are programmed to “self-destruct” if too many attempts are made.

Also, apparently, this is a problem only Apple can solve. But they can’t just override the software, or whatever hackers do. As far as breaking in goes, Apple is as helpless as the FBI. Which is why the FBI is demanding that Apple develop iOS software that would let them bypass security and gain access to the phone’s contents via a “back door.” Apple doesn’t want to open any back doors, though. Because once they make the key to do it, that key would be able to do much, much more. It’s a key that shouldn’t exist. It’s a key that no one should have — especially nothing as powerful as a government.

If this story seems to be a little bias, that’s because it is.

What’s The Big Deal?

I’ll answer this question with another few questions:

Do you value your privacy?

Do you like being the only person who can access your phone?

How do feel about people being able to get your credit card information? Read your private conversations? Know exactly where you’ve been, where you’re going, and where you are?

If you answered “no, no, good, good, good, good, good,” to these questions, respectively, then I am very surprised. And you are a great candidate for identity theft.

See, what the FBI is trying to FORCE Apple to design is a way to break into iPhones. To break security encryption. If the government was operated by some kind of perfect creature — not humans — this might be fine. But as history and current events constantly remind us, no government is incorruptible. Power and control tend to attract people with not-so-great intentions. Who was that guy… Stalin? No… Mussolini? Nah… Oh! Hitler. That’s the one.

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, has a lot of really good reasons why this is bad. Here’s one:

“The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake. Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”

Big Brother, much? Yeah. Big Brother, MUCH.

The FBI’s Side Of The Story:

It’s fair to look at both sides, even though one of them has plenty of reasons to be dishonest and can also get away with it. In the words of a federal agent directly involved in the San Bernardino investigation:

“Nobody can build a phone that we cannot get in under unique circumstances. Why should Apple be allowed to build a phone that does that? The right [to privacy] should not supersede our ability to keep people safe. It’s why we are not finding others, encryption, and, specifically in this case, we cannot connect the dots.”

Yeah Apple, shut your stupid mouths! We’re the government! Give us. What we. Want!

Here’s the thing — who even knows whether anything is on this iPhone or not! The government has been trying to force tech companies to create back doors for years, and this particular situation seems pretty friggin convenient to that end. According to Fox News, the judge who ordered Apple to shape up and create this back-door-key-thing “didn’t spell out her rationale in her three-page order.” Are we to understand that the FBI is pursuing fascist-esque control over an enormous part of the world’s lives — not just Americans’ — on the grounds that it says so?

It’s unclear what they think could be on the phone. Which, correct me if I’m wrong, vaguely translates to trading the privacy of countless people for a chance of an unlikely bank-shot. Or, if you prefer poker metaphors, demanding that everybody in the casino fork over all their chips for an outrageous bet on a shitty hand — just to see if another player is bluffing.

Enter The “All Writs Act of 1789”:

Even fishier, the legislation that the government is referencing to enforce their demands is 227 years old. Ah yes, this, the All Writs Act of 1789. Whatever it could possibly say was definitely meant to apply to technologies that would correctly be labeled as magic at the time it was drafted. What a historic moment — all those 18th century lawmakers gathered around the parchment, quills in hand, proudly discussing encrypted iPhones.

To be fair, the AWA has been amended since then. Most notably in 1911… so, uh, fairly recently. Here’s what it reads verbatim:

(a) The Supreme Court and all courts established by Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.

(b) An alternative writ or rule nisi may be issued by a justice or judge of a court which has jurisdiction.

No translation needed. You’re right. It’s a vague, insanely broad statute that gives courts permission to force anybody to do anything as long as its necessary and lawful. And guess who gets to decide what’s necessary and lawful?

The AWA has been already been thrown at Apple once in an ongoing case in New York. It was also used successfully 2 years ago to make another smartphone manufacturer help the government break into a phone.

Google “All Writs Act.” Go to the Wikipedia page. Notice how the only historical examples of the AWA in action are from cases involving electronic devices. And, finally, recall how this law was written without technology in mind. Here we are, 227 years later, watching the government repeatedly use the same statute — the vagueness of which allows them to do whatever they want, as long as there’s no other law befitting the circumstances.

But who needs specific encryption laws when you have that? If the government can pull this off (which it already has) then it’s definitely in their best interest to keep using it. The alternative would be to risk creating legislation that only lets them have some of the information they want, but not all of it, or even worse: gives priority to our right to privacy instead of whatever interpretations of national security the government decides is most convenient.

Legal Protection Against Privacy Invasions

Natural security is so important. Nobody is arguing that the government shouldn’t be restrained in their attempts to keep the country safe. But by sacrificing the privacy of our personal information in exchange for increased government control, how much safer would we really be?

If nothing else, Tim Cook is right about this:

“…this moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.”

At Turner Law Offices, P.C., our team of attorneys have years of experience working with clients across a wide ranges of legal circumstances — including invasions of privacy. Nobody has the right to infringe on your constitutional rights, not even the government. If you’re in a situation in which you believe your right to privacy has been violated, call our offices or go online to set up your free initial consultation. A skilled lawyer is ready and waiting to guide you toward the justice you deserve.

(615) 259-2660

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