In a strong move of opposition, Apple said on Wednesday that it will challenge a federal court order to assist the F.B.I. access the data on an iPhone which was used by one of the two shooters who killed fourteen people. The attack had taken place in San Bernardino, California in December.
On Tuesday, Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym ordered Apple to unlock an iPhone 5C which belonged to Syed RizwanFarook. He was killed along with his wife by the police after they had attacked Mr. Farook’s associates at a holiday gathering. US Judge Pym ordered the company to create a software that will act as a skeleton key which is being able to unlock the iPhone. This was seen as a significant victory for the government.
However, within hours of this order, Apple’s chief executive, Tim D. Cook announced the company’s refusal to comply. This brings Apple face to face with the legal authorities where the tech giant is eager to protect the confidentiality and privacy of their customers while law enforcers find the new encryption technology to be unhelpful when it comes to solving crime.
F.B.I. experts were unable to decode the encrypted data on Farook’s phone and they believe that only Apple has the right set of tools to bypass its own security features. At F.B.I., the team is at a risk of losing the data held in the phone after too many failed attempts. Mr. Cook explains that creating such a key can increase the vulnerability of the iPhones to the hackers. A company that has built its reputation on its flagship phones, there is hardly a reason that it would want to bring it down by providing a key to the F.B.I.
According to Mr. Cook, the order requires a back door which will allow F.B.I. to bypass Apple’s robust encryption standards. He sees this as extremely dangerous for the company.
One of the reasons why Apple is opposing the order is to preserve its reputation for tough encryption. At a time when users look for stronger security, Apple does not wish to give way to the demands of intelligence agencies. This is not the first time that the government and a tech company are at disagreement regarding the security laws of the tech companies.
While there is no knowing how the case will move from here, the outcome will create ripples in companies who prize their strong encryptions.