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How Apple Set Off a Behind-the-Scenes Battle with FBI Over Encryption

Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Apple CEO Tim Cook.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Soon after Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook unveiled the iPhone’s latest mobile-operating system, iOS 8, in Jun 2014, the company gave the FBI early access to the technology.

The new system involved encryption that would make it impossible for the FBI and even Apple to gather information from a phone without a password.

The new encryption “set off a behind-the-scenes battle that ultimately spilled into the open last month” after a judge approved a Justice Department order to force Apple to help the FBI open a phone by one of the San Bernardino shooters, Bloomberg wrote in a lengthy piece about the long-simmering battle between law enforcement and the tech giant.

 “The reason the relationship went south is the government was expecting some degree of accommodation on the part of the technology companies,” said Timothy Edgar, the former director of privacy and civil liberties for the White House National Security Staff from 2009 to 2010. “They were expecting the companies to essentially back down and not go forward with new security measures that would make it impossible for you to access devices or communications. They were caught off guard by basically being told to get lost.”

Privacy advocates are worried that the Supreme Court or Congress could set a legal precedent that would require tech companies to unlock security features.

“The stakes couldn’t be higher,” said Alex Abdo, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s speech privacy and technology project, which has filed a brief supporting Apple. “This is an unprecedented legal question with extremely significant policy and technological implications.”


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