Should Apple do as the government has asked?

downloadIf you haven’t been keeping up, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently sent this letter to customers after being asked by the FBI to create a device that would allow them to break into the iPhone owned by one of the San Bernardino terrorists.

It is the FBI’s contention (and the Department of Justice’s, as well) that the company can do this for them to help in their investigation into the latest internet data from Syed Farook — half of the terrorist couple who attacked the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino last December and killed 14 people and injured 22 others. (A search of his iCloud information revealed very little recent information.)

The government filed its appeal under the All Writs Act of 1789, which The New Yorker says is a dangerous precedent. Would the government be content with restricting its ability to hack into an iPhone to this one case? Apple has devoted no small amount of effort in regard to privacy, and each successive product has more privacy measures than the last. (Here’s some information from their website.)

Some of the victims will file a brief supporting the government’s position. And organizations such as ACLU are weighing in, on the side of technology companies and privacy.

So it’s privacy v. national security. Which side are you on?

And — this being a religion blog — which side would Jesus be on? I will entertain your answers (please do bolster your argument with scripture) below. Or forget the scriptures. What would you do?

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  1. Well…privacy, of course. But common sense should inform us that expectations of privacy in wireless communications and onboard storage become less of an issue where criminal activity is concerned. That’s already been established.

    But I think the Apple versus FBI controversy is really more of a smokescreen for something else because, the FBI’s initial blunders notwithstanding, all the metadata it could want is probably already on file at the NSA. Because? The ability to load and execute modified firmware, (the “back door”), without user intervention already exists on every new iPhone being sold. Why does the FBI need a new process to circumvent a security feature that can already be circumvented. Update features like firmware modification are intended to fix bugs. The government has been looking for ways to exploit that design feature for quite some time. And there’s reason to believe the NSA has already deployed just such an exploitation. Bill Blunden reports.

    And then there’s the obvious fact that if Syed Farook turned off his iCloud update feature, he probably wiped the onboard storage bank as well.

    And then there’s the knowledge that law enforcement agencies across the country are currently involved with about a dozen other court cases seeking quick and easy ways to defeat iPhone’s modest onboard security features.

    So something else, I think, is at issue in this very public controversy. I don’t really trust Apple any more than I trust the government, but I have to side with Cook on this one.

  2. This is a tough one. I lean toward extraction of phone info in this case, since it involves a person who was undeniably, a terrorist. Identifying a strict guidelines for when this could be done is essential to maintain privacy. (E.g. without question, known terrorists) I have no scriptural backing yet to support it. I’m slogging thru a lot of burnt instructions and that doesn’t seem to apply! Not that it should matter, full disclosure: I am an Android user. What do you think?

    1. Google’s Android OS isn’t limited to specific hardware like the Apple mobile iOS. The availability to Android users of levels of encryption depends on what hardware is being used and what version of the OS is onboard. And whether the user is actually using encryption or even knows or cares what encryption does or does not do.

      The biggest difference being: Only Apple controls what firmware updates are done and how. Google partners with so many telecom businesses it has much less control over Android security.

      Mark Bergen reports at .

        1. Android phones are notoriously easy to hack.
          Which is why you don’t see law enforcement taking Google to court like it’s doing with Apple. (Take note of the “frequent fusillades” from Apple noted by Bergen.)

            1. I clearly don’t have enough technological knowledge to thoroughly understand this issue. My son, who has a degree in electrical & computer engineering, says so. I guess once the back door exists, the terrorists could potentially access sensitive info on the good guys’ phones…or something. I’ll sit on the fence and defer to the smart techies to figure this one out.

              1. I disagree with the government’s request, but I find it admirable that the director of the FBI has acknowledged that the FBI can’t make this decision. This most assuredly will reach the Supreme Court, with a potential 4-4 tie. Yay?

                1. I’m thinking, if the info was on the terrorist’s laptop, there would be no question about whether it would be ok for law enforcement to extract the info (they know how to do that with laptops). The info is just on a different piece of hardware. It’s interesting. Too bad they can’t just get the info without jeopardizing security for others.

                  1. Laptops/computers and phones are subject to the same search and seizure rules and exceptions, (like exigent circumstances). EFF breaks it down here.
                    The question is not whether law enforcement, the FBI in this case, is allowed access to the data on any criminal suspect’s storage/communications device. The question here is whether the manufacturer of the device, a private party, can be compelled to assist law enforcement, essentially being forced to become an agent of the government, after law enforcement screwed the pooch in an earlier attempt. (Like what happened with Farook’s iPhone.) There’s also an issue of the rights of Apple’s other customers. Giving the government a front door to instant access of personal data a manufacturer is bound to protect, (it’s in the sales contract/terms of use), carries with it a host of issues that could affect many more persons than just the subjects of one particular investigation.

                    1. I find myself increasingly going to the EFF website. I know they’ve been around for a while, but these days, I find their information vital.

              2. Ask your son if data stored on the phone could be recovered by reducing the phone to its component parts, (disassembling it), and then bypassing the security features with different hardware.

                1. He says though the data is stored in his phone’s hardware components, the data is encrypted – so it’s useless without the phone’s encryption key in software. (Now that I think of it, I don’t know if that’s in the operating system or preloaded in a phone or something else). Each phone has a unique encryption key. As I understand it, the thought is, if Apple could develop an iOS software update that would unlock the phone and therefore allow for the encrypted data to be viewed on the phone, the FBI could potentially obtain useful information. They could, apparently, send an iOS update to the locked phone. Does that sound about right?

                  Too bad they screwed up in getting this info off the cloud.

                  1. To that phone or any phone once they get the software from Apple. That’s why Apple doesn’t want to get involved.

                    I don’t know why Farook’s IT department reset the password. Apparently it wasn’t done with FBI knowledge. But Farook had not backed up anything to his Cloud account for more than a month prior to the attack. So what the FBI is after is stored on the phone itself. If that’s what the FBI is actually after.

                    I think they should just quietly turn the phone over to the NSA and let them work their magic to get at the device’s storage.

                    But I’m really beginning to think the government wants to exploit this issue in order to create a legislative, and public, environment friendly to increased domestic surveillance and warrantless searches in the name of The War On Terror®.
                    WaPo 09/16/15:

                    Although “the legislative environment is very hostile today,” the intelligence community’s top lawyer, Robert S. Litt, said to colleagues in an August e-mail, which was obtained by The Post, “it could turn in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.”

                    The Intercept:

                    FBI Director James Comey has attempted to provide examples of how law enforcement is “going dark,” but none have checked out. Only Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has been able to provide an example of encrypted technology maybe blocking one possible lead in a murder investigation.

                    Being an election year, Congress may not be so willing to tell people they must be willing to turn over the personal data stored on their phones, (like lists of contacts, emails and texts, phone records, photographs, historical data on physical movements, private PGP keys for encrypted emails, bank account data among other things), to law enforcement on just a whim. So the FBI is looking for more friendly support in the courts. I don’t think it has much to do with Farook at all.

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