“Late on Tuesday a federal magistrate judge in California ordered Apple to help the FBI break into the cell phones of the San Bernardino shooters,” Eric Reed reports for TheStreet. “Agents have so far been unable to access the password-encrypted data on Syed Rizwan Farook’s phone, which they believe could contain communications between Farook and his co-conspirator, wife Tashfeen Malik, as well as potentially others.”

“In Judge Sheri Pym’s ruling she ordered that Apple provide ‘reasonable technical assistance’ and such specialized software as necessary to override the iPhone’s self-destruct feature, a failsafe which wipes out all data on the device if a user enters too many false passwords. The FBI would like to use a brute-force approach to unlock Farook’s device which would otherwise trigger this precaution,” Reed reports. “The assistance which Apple has been ordered to provide would allow agents to try as many passwords as necessary to unlock the device without destroying its data.”

“In the context of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence this it’s similar to the difference between subpoenaing the combination to a safe and forcing someone to help crack it,” Reed reports. “What makes the digital world different is the rise of encryption which even the government cannot break, creating the possibility of warrants that it can execute only with outside assistance. This is different from the traditional assumption that law enforcement can forcibly conduct a search or seizure with minimal aid from third parties. The result, however, is a contest that is (legally) more about Apple’s right to be left alone than about data privacy or protection. Apple has five days to contest this decision if it feels Pym’s ruling was unreasonably burdensome.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple should appeal this wrongheaded decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if need be. No company should be forced to degrade its products and expose its customers to greater risks of attack at the hands of a feckless government.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

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