Why The FBI Dropped It’s Legal Action Against Apple

Mar 29, 2016
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Written by Rhys Diab

There have been more developments in FBI’s battle with Apple that has lead to the FBI withdrawing their legal action against Apple. You may have read about the FBI’s standoff with Apple in our recent post,“FBI’s Standoff With Apple: Privacy v National Security”.

The battle essentially pitted 2 core public interests against each other: The right to privacy and national security.

How The Case Started

It all started when the FBI requested that Apple write new code to unlock the encrypted iPhone used by the San Bernardino terrorists.

The attack occurred in December last year when Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik bombarded the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, with guns and explosives. The attackers killed 14 people before being taken out by police in a violent shootout.

In an effort to have the terrorists prosecuted, the FBI turned to Apple and requested they create a new version of it’s operating system that would disable existing security measures.

Apple Refused to Comply

They claimed that they were far removed from the attack and not responsible. Apple argued that a court order against them would require them to dedicate 8 employees to work on creating a new ‘hackable’ version of the IOS for an entire month.

A punishment that was out of all proportion to their liability for the attack.

New Developments

In the case against Apple, prosecutors made a court filing today claiming they had a new way to access the locked information in the terrorist’s iPhone and that Apple’s assistance was no longer needed.

Although the filing didn’t explain exactly the new method the FBI used to access the information in the phone, the development has ended the court fight against Apple that has been going on since February.

With the case withdrawn, it is uncertain whether the court would have upheld the FBI’s right to force a private company to provide confidential information in the pursuit of protecting national security or whether the circumstances warranted the protection of individual privacy.

In addition, it raises questions of what capacity the government now has to unlock private information protected by encryption and how many different encrypted devices it could be used to unlock in the future.

The Department Of Justice has indicated that they will continue extracting data from encrypted devices, stating,

“It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety.”

It is likely that we will discover how far the courts we will permit this government power to extend in future cases involving encrypted devices.

Let us know your thoughts on the battle between Apple and the FBI by tagging us #lawpath or @lawpath.

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