Tim Cook after that urgent letter of his declared that Apple would not give in to the court’s orders to unlock the iPhone 5s of Syed Farook, one of the killers who dies in the San Bernardino shooting.
The FBI had brought this to the court’s attention after the encryption on the operating system was stopping them from unlocking the phone to establish any links that the accused might have had with any terrorist organisation.
And this isn’t the first time it has done so.
In a similar incident in New York in 2015, Apple acknowledged the fact that it could extract data and helped out by unlocking phones for at least 70 times. Thus, Apple’s present stance which Cook called an “unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers”, may also have a lot to do with the public image expected from the company.
With its present stance, there might be accusations against the company for it favouring a terrorist’s privacy over national security which might tarnish the image of the company.
The details of the case in New York, involving a methamphetamine dealer, tends to go against some of the claims being made by both sides – that is the government and the company. And here too, Apple is hell bent on not allowing the bypassing of the passcode feature found on the phone.
But, in the New York case, Apple said that since the phone was running in the iOS 7 version, the company could use its technical acumen to “extract certain categories of unencrypted data from a passcode locked iOS device”, the success of which would depend on the health of the device.
Contrarily, the iPhone involved in the San Bernardino case runs on iOS 9. But, two experts have said that Apple can extract data if it wanted to do so.
Apple’s forceful protection of privacy came soon after the revelations of Edward Snowden that had taken the world by storm. Perhaps Apple was surprised by the magnitude of the surveillance activities revealed by Snowden.
Although Apple is resisting the government on many issues, the government has found new ways to crack the iPhone which might undermine its erstwhile argument that it needed Apple’s help in unearthing what was there in the device.
In a brief talk with attorneys, Judge James Orenstein said he had found from another case that he Homeland Security Department “is in possession of technology that would allow its forensic technicians to override the passcodes security feature on the subject iPhone and obtain the data contained therein”.
We need to wait and watch to see where this debate leads to!