The FBI has cracked the San Bernardino iPhone used by a terrorist. After breaking the security of the phone, the FBI dropped the case against Apple, and have seemingly gone about opening other iPhones for other law enforcement agencies. However, this method does not work for all iPhones, and there are still cases in which the government seeks Apple’s assistance.
One such case is the drug conspiracy case in New York which had made the news in the weeks preceding the San Bernardino case. In that case, the judge ruled that Apple did not have to unlock the phone. On Friday, the Department of Justice let it be known that they would continue the fight to have this phone opened.
The phone in question belongs to Jun Feng, who plead guilty in a methamphetamine conspiracy case in Queens, N.Y. The phone is an iPhone 5s running iOS7. This is an earlier OS than the San Bernardino case, not using the encryption which Apple stated was unbreakable. Indeed, Apple’s lawyers have stated that Apple could gain access to this phone if they were required, as Apple has done previously in “at least 70” other cases. Yet they won’t now.
Apple’s attorneys commented Friday that they would continue to defend against the governments request for assistance. They further stated that they planned to seek assurance that the government had exhausted all other options to access the phone, and that they stated a full vetting of the method used by the FBI in the San Bernardino case would be core to their defense.
The reasoning behind this is that they believe Apple has the right to know what steps the FBI took to access the phone in question before demanding Apple open the phone.
There are two points to this that we need to focus on. One, Apple is going to use this case to try and find how the FBI cracked the San Bernardino phone. Do they really need this information to open this phone? No. They do not. Contrary to the San Bernardino case, Apple has openly admitted in court that they have a method to gain entry in to this phone. This will not be an engineering feet requiring a months long effort by a team of Apple engineers as Apple attempted to portray the San Bernardino case to be. It’s obvious that the method used in the San Bernardino case will not work on this phone, and Apple has no need to know anything about that in order to open this phone. I will be severely disappointed in our judicial system if this argument is allowed to play out in court.
Secondly, Apple’s true motives are here for the public to see. This is not about privacy. In fact, the lawyers response says nothing whatsoever about privacy. It is simply Apple stating that the government should do it themselves. Realistically, we should all know this by now. Regardless of the grandstanding for user’s privacy done by Tim Cook in various media outlets, it all came down to Apple not wanting to provide the service. When the FBI cracked the San Bernardino iPhone with the help of the third party, Apple took that as a win. Not because the phone remained uncracked and privacy was protected, because it was not. No, it was a win, because Apple did not have to open it for them.
In the end, Apple is fighting to not have to spend resources to help the government in the country in which it makes so much of it’s income. Just like the tax loopholes Apple uses to not have to pay domestic taxes, Apple is fighting to not have to spend money.
It’s not about privacy, it’s about money.
And that is precisely what we should be educating people on each time Apple is lauded as a hero for privacy.