No, Apple has NOT unlocked 70 iphones for law enforcement

“The more highly technical the basis of a story, the more likely it is that some key detail will get jacked up by a journalist trying to translate it for the public,” Matthew Panzarino reports for TechCrunch. “Call it Panzer’s Law… But no matter how hard it is, it’s important to get this stuff right.”

“Specifically, I keep seeing reports that Apple has unlocked ’70 iPhones’ for the government,” Panzarino reports. “And those reports argue that Apple is now refusing to do for the FBI what it has done many times before.”

Panzarino reports, “This meme is completely inaccurate at best, and dangerous at worst.”

Read more in the full article – recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: Poor reporting or planted reporting by those who wish to sway public opinion in a certain direction?

Apple is right, the U.S. government demand would make us all less secure – February 18, 2016
How Apple will fight the DOJ in iPhone backdoor case: U.S. government’s position stands on 227 year old law – February 18, 2016
USA Today alters logo to support Apple in fight against U.S. government overreach – February 18, 2016
Obama administration claims FBI is not asking Apple for a ‘backdoor’ to the iPhone – February 18, 2016
Privacy activists plan rallies across U.S. to support Apple in battle against U.S. government on February 23rd – February 18, 2016
Google CEO Sundar Pichai wishy-washy on Apple’s fight against U.S. government backdoor demands – February 18, 2016
Why Apple is fighting back against U.S. federal government demands for iPhone access – February 17, 2016
Snowden backs Apple in fight over iPhone; blasts Google’s silence – February 17, 2016
Obama administration: We’re only demanding Apple hack just one iPhone – February 17, 2016
Security firm shows how Apple could bypass iPhone security to comply with FBI request – February 17, 2016
What the Apple court order means for your smartphone privacy – February 17, 2016
EFF opposes U.S. government demand to force Apple to unlock terrorist’s iPhone – February 17, 2016
‘Who do they think they are?’ Donald Trump blasts Apple for not unlocking San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone – February 17, 2016
Tim Cook posts open letter opposing U.S. government demands to bypass iPhone encryption – February 17, 2016
Apple CEO opposes court order to help FBI unlock San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone – February 17, 2016
Apple wants judge to rule if it can be forced to unlock defendant’s iPhone – February 16, 2016
U.S. House lawmakers seek to outlaw states from banning encrypted iPhones – February 10, 2016
Obama administration wants access to smartphones – December 15, 2015
Obama administration’s calls for backdoors into encrypted communications echo Clinton-era key escrow fiasco – December 14, 2015


  1. I have been thinking about this.

    Weigh in the balance, a terrorist attack, killing 14 innocent victims, who knew their murderers -vs- the chilling impact on an entire industry the nation and world depend on.

    The irony here, breaking into a single iPhone would do more damage to our country, than any simple terrorist attack.

    Here is the secret. We are doing this to our self. The logical strategy of terrorism is to “tickle” western society by murdering and maiming it’s citizens. Meanwhile as society reacts, they are gouging out their flesh to get at an irritation that can’t be reached.

    Getting into the phone is self-defeating. Imagine there was no phone. What would you do then?

    Pretend, there is no phone, repeat there is no phone.

    1. As someone who worked as a prosecutor for 30 years, I can assure you that encryption presents a problem for law enforcement and public safety… a very real problem, not a made-up one. However, Apple did not create that problem and emasculating Apple’s security measures will not solve it. Virtually unbreakable encryption is reasonably easy to implement. If it were not built into our phones, it would be available via a native or web application.

      Right now, Apple can truthfully tell not only its customers, but also the literally thousands of national, regional, and local jurisdictions where it does business that not even Apple itself can access the encrypted contents of a new iPhone. You may not believe that, but if the FBI did not believe it, it would already have arrested Apple’s management for making a material misrepresentation to a federal officer in the course of a criminal investigation.

      In order to create a bypass for the 10-try limit, Apple will have to develop new software that does not already exist. The California federal court has ordered Apple to involuntarily devote its labor to that project, which will not benefit but very seriously harm the company. Could a Mississippi court in 1956 have lawfully ordered African-Americans to chop cotton in the public interest? I think not.

      There is no question that the All Writs Act can reach out to require the cooperation of some third parties, but that reach is limited. If the FBI wants to search a house, it cannot draft the neighbors to help conduct the search. It cannot force Google to help crack an iPhone. Apple has no connection to this device except as its manufacturer. It has no connection to the data at all.

      The actual owner has given its consent to a search, but the owner’s employee who knew the passcode is deceased. There is no living person with standing to challenge the search. Apple’s assistance is not being sought to assist with the search or seizure of the device, but with the interpretation of the data contained on it. Does the government position mean that the FBI could force a third-party translator to interpret the data on a phone seized from someone who spoke Navajo? Could it require someone to learn Navajo so they could translate?

      The New York Police Commissioner has stated that they have at least dozens, if not hundreds, of locked iPhones that have been seized in the course of criminal investigations. If Apple had the means to unlock all those devices, is there any doubt that the NYPD would go to state court and get orders compelling the company to do just that? The promise of the US Department of Justice that the San Bernardino case is a one-time deal does not bind state prosecutors or even the federal officials who will take office next January 20. Putting the issue of foreign requests to one side, the volume of domestic demands on Apple to unlock phones would become enormous. That might quickly extend beyond the criminal courts, as civil courts required Apple to unlock phones that might contain information relevant to civil suits or family law disputes.

      Once the use of the cracking tools became widespread, it would only be a matter of time (and not much time, at that) before somebody leaked the details. How much remains secret about the upcoming iPhone and iPad upgrades? Groups like Anonymous and WikiLeaks would be glad to disseminate the information. After that, nobody could place any confidential information on an iPhone with the assurance that nobody could defeat the encryption.

      Right now, Apple can sell phones outside the United States (notably in China) because it can promise the local government that the US Government cannot use an iPhone to tap communications between two local citizens. The US lets Apple export its technology because it can promise that it does not have the means to comply with a foreign court’s order to crack the encryption on the phones of political dissidents (who are often defined as terrorists by the local government). Without those guarantees, Apple might well be prevented from selling its devices outside the USA.

      Within the US, it can sell phones to doctors, lawyers, and ministers because it can promise them that privileged communications with their patients, clients, or penitents will remain secure. It can sell iPhones to businesses because it can promise that proprietary information on the devices will remain confidential. Without that assurance, those professions would have to drop back on face to face conversations or exchanging written notes. Why pay the extra money for a smart phone when it cannot be used with safety?

      I have every sympathy for the situation of the Assistant US Attorneys in Southern California. I have been there. Yes, there could be serious consequences if this iPhone 5c is not cracked. Yes, people could die and felons go free if the New York iPhones remain locked. However, we must consider the countervailing threat to our system of liberties. The consequences of forcing a third party to work for law enforcement (to its own detriment) in a case where it is just a bystander are simply too serious to regard as reasonable.

      1. The fact that: “The actual owner has given its consent to a search, but the owner’s employee who knew the passcode is deceased. There is no living person with standing to challenge the search.” Was a real stupid move with that businesses IT staff. If they own the phone, and it was set up for company use, the passcode should have been on file somewhere not in one person’s head that can be blown off by the owner of the phone. Stupid. If they’d practiced good management they wouldn’t have to ask Apple to crack this phone. Unfortunate.

      2. Thanks TxUser, you make some compelling and cogent arguments. However, you state;
        “Right now, Apple can truthfully tell not only its customers, but also the literally thousands of national, regional, and local jurisdictions where it does business that not even Apple itself can access the encrypted contents of a new iPhone.”

        I don’t know what deal Apple cut with China, but I’m quite sure it’s not only about the US Govt not having access to the information. I believe Apple had to give up the source code, and China can quite easily go about building it’s own pass key. In China it’s not about what others know, it’s about China Govt knowing what is happening within it’s borders and controlling individuals ability to dissent.

        The entire internet is just another means of communication. Let’s face it, telephones through the early years right up through Apple’s phone could easily be intercepted. Heck, the whole thing started with ‘Party Lines’ where people shared the phone connection and could listen in each others conversations, and operators could always listen in, and most knew any phone could be wiretapped. Likewise, with written mail and letters, they could be intercepted at any point and the contents read unless coded.

        That didn’t stop doctors from talking to their patients, discussing confidential matters, negotiating deals, etc. etc. etc. The phones were used to communicate with the knowledge the conversations could be intercepted. It was used at your own risk.

        There’s no reason that can’t continue to be the case.

        People have for centuries developed their own codes and others have tried to break the codes. Read about how sophisticated this was in WWll.

        I don’t think it’s right that a technology company stand in the way of allowing a government, when it has received legal authority, the capability to try to break the code. The issue is limiting the attempt to break a very sophisticated code only 10 times. In this case Apple will have rendered the ability of the those trying to protect us incapable.

        1. You gave a comprehension problem.

          In sddition:
          “YOU” believe Apple had to give up its source code…

          Well that nrans a whole lot doesn’t it idiot?

          The Donald also majes up facts and believes he’s holier than the Pope…

        2. Points that occurred to me overnight:

          The Mississippi cotton-chopping example misses one nuance. Apple is being forced to write a computer program, which is (among other things) a document written in a language. Thanks to the Hobby Lobby decision, we know that American corporations have the same First Amendment rights as an individual. They should also be protected from government orders to engage in speech that is dictated by the government but repugnant to the speaker. Could the Justice Department force Ted Cruz to endorse its position on immigration?

          This is not the same as tapping a landline. Your mobile device does not just transmit in real time. It contains a record of your complete communications history, including legally privileged communications like iMessages to your wife that enjoy the marital privilege. It also provides direct access to your online accounts, your calendar and private diary, and all the other bits of information stored on it or indirectly accessible through it.

          This is not about authorizing one agency to search one place described with particularity on a showing of probable cause that the place may contain discoverable evidence. It is not even about compelling a bystander to assist in such a search. It is about compelling an unwilling bystander to write new computer code that would allow anybody to seach any iPhone for any purpose, or no purpose.

          Apple is not being asked to open one door described in a warrant. It is being asked to build a universal burglary tool. That cannot be what the men who wrote both the All Writs Act and First Amendment could have intended.

        3. “I believe Apple had to give up the source code, and China can quite easily go about building it’s own pass key.”

          If only it were that simple for China. Even with the source code, the update would still require Apple’s Signed Digital Certificate to authenticate the pass key. Apple would not have given that up. The Certificate is exactly why third parties cannot create hacks that do what the US Government is asking.

      3. Thank you for your excellent post. The only issue that would argue with was when you said “… there could be serious consequences if this iPhone 5c is not cracked.”

        The personal phones that the terrorists owned were destroyed prior to the attack so that no data could be recovered from them. They also removed the hard drives from their computer and disposed of it. If they had imagined that there could be any useful information on the company iPhone that they had been given, then you could be certain that they would have destroyed it too.

        I can’t believe that there is any worthwhile data on this iPhone and the repercussions from forcing Apple to provide the FBI with tools to defeat the encryption would be massively in excess of any minor benefit gained from accessing the content of this iPhone.

        1. Do you have references to your claims that their data was destroyed. The only place I have heard these claims is on MDN posts. Not necessarily a reliable source of truth.

      4. I love MDN because of people like you.

        At which point does a personal device, such as an iPhone, become auxiliary memory or storage to the user, and considered a part of themselves? It’s not imbedded in their head, but because of passwords (remembered only) and encryption, it is effectively an extension of their mind.

        Once deceased, the data within, is also dead. The physical phone belongs to the company, it’s data, a pattern of bits, belongs to the user.

        Any thoughts?

        Also I appreciate the part you have done in keeping people civil and honest. We would not be able to have our modern society without the justice system and the trust between individuals, it helps maintain.

        Trust is the foundation by which we exist. Apple too has helped keep that trust.

    2. Meanwhile as society reacts, they are gouging out their flesh to get at an irritation that can’t be reached.

      A brilliant analogy Gollum!

      Our own self-destruction of democracy and human rights is how the terrorists WIN. 💥💣💥

      “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
      – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

      1. We need a collective chill pill. The NSA, CIA, and FBI are behaving like children. Certainly we need protection, but what we get is a combination of unchecked emotions and distrust between each agency and the people. The notion that the ends justify the means has been lost.

        MAITRE D: And finally, monsieur, a wafer-thin mint.

        That’s where it begins and ends. Just one little phone, you can keep it in your closet. A teeny weeny little 5c phone. It’s almost nothing at all. Won’t harm anyone just a bit.

        That’s the problem. It’s not a phone, it’s a crack in a dam of privacy. There is a torrent of sentiment and precedence behind it. Once a hole is made, it can’t be plugged.

        iOS 10 needs to eliminate the 4 digit pass code.

        What the justice system is trying to do, is test just how far they can push Apple.

        Apple said, they can’t do it. So they can’t doit. Why make all the fuss, unless the intent is not the phone, but something grander. I don’t want to say it’s sinister, but I want to think as naive.

        How can you tell a group of people who are well meaning and think they are the pinnacle of humanity, that they simply don’t get it?

  2. After watching the Rebublican town hall on CNN I switched over to FOX News. The Fox commentator introduced a General, which basically lambasted Apple for the entire segment.

    Apple needs to summon PR again because the optics are not looking good. Maybe Tim should debate someone from the enforcement community on Fox as soon as tomorrow. My advice is don’t be defensive or apologetic, but even tempered and pragmatic. Tell a story about how back doors could then be cracked and the cameras on the devices could be monitored by nefarious individuals. Tell the story about the Miss Teen nude recordings and blackmail or something. Do you want this happening to your daughter? Apple is a place where you don’t have to worry about criminal intrusions. It is our duty to protect our customers. As a people we can not bow down to the heanious actions of a few deranged individuals. If we decrease security then the terrorists have beaten us…

    1. Agree fully. aPple needs to get the repercussions, implications, reasoning and technical explanations clearly explained and understood not only by the public but by the media.


  3. In this case, the NSA already has the information. Has had for years on everybody. The FBI just wants it to be “legal” to access it. Listening posts on all US citizens at such places as the Yakima Firing Range for telephony for example. And the huge data facilities in Utah and Texas.

  4. The government’s going after the wrong target for crying out loud which is the smartphone business. They got to go after the NSA, gun that is killing. The government failed to control guns. If there were no guns, no killing, no bloodshed. We would not see many lives lost.

    1. “The government failed to control guns. If there were no guns, no killing, no bloodshed.”

      What *is* the color of the sky on your planet?

      It can’t be this one, since apparently on yours knives, clubs, boots, fists, rocks, frozen salmon*, poison, rope, piano wire, gasoline nor seemingly anything else can be used to kill or injure anyone.

      * Yes, frozen salmon. At least one adjudicated murder was accomplished by beating the victim to death with a frozen salmon.

      1. If gun sprayed then many people would be killed. All the other methods of killing that you listed above, could not kill that too many. The frozen salmon probably could kill one person, so the rest of the victims could run or hide or better intervene to safe the victim. So no lives lost.

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