FBI chief acknowledges Apple case may set privacy precedent

“FBI Director James Comey said the government isn’t looking to send a message with a court order to compel Apple Inc. to unlock a terror suspect’s iPhone but acknowledged that the case may set a precedent,” Del Quentin Wilber reports for Bloomberg.

“Federal prosecutors simply want any potential evidence that may be on a phone used by one of the attackers in the December mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, Comey said. Even so, the director agreed with Apple’s claim that the outcome may have broader consequences,” Wilber reports. “‘Whatever the judge’s decision is in California, it will be appealed and it will be instructive for other courts,’ Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee. ‘There may well be other cases that involve the same kind of phone and same kind of operating system.'”

“Apple is refusing to cooperate. Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has vowed to fight the order, saying the software doesn’t exist and creating it would potentially put billions of iPhones at risk of being hacked or spied on by governments. Apple’s response to the court is due Friday,” Wilber reports. “‘The only way to get information, at least currently the only way we know, is to write a piece of software that we view as sort of the software equivalent of cancer,’ Cook said… in an interview aired Wednesday on ABC’s ‘World News.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: First it was “it’s only one iPhone.” Then it wasn’t.

The FBI obviously cherry-picked this case (and likely fscked up the Apple ID on purpose to trigger this case) in order to engender complicity from (a dumbed-down portion of) the general public who’re willing to forfeit their rights for absolutely no guarantee of even temporary safety.

Now, it’s “we’re not trying to set a precedent, we only want what’s best for the children” bullshit.

Hey, Comey: Blow it out yer ass, you transparent, lying hack.

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

Gruber: The next step in iPhone impregnability – February 25, 2016
U.S. government sought data from 15 Apple devices in last four months – February 25, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook says iPhone-cracking software the ‘equivalent of cancer’ – February 24, 2016
Apple’s fight with U.S. could speed development of devices impervious to government intrusion – February 24, 2016
Apple to argue that FBI court order violates its free-speech rights – February 24, 2016
Apple, the U.S. government, and security – February 24, 2016
Congressman Ted Lieu asks FBI to drop demand that Apple hack iPhones – February 23, 2016
In the fight to hack iPhones, the U.S. government has more to lose than Apple – February 23, 2016
Here are the 12 other cases where the U.S. government has demanded Apple help it hack into iPhones – February 23, 2016
John McAfee blasts FBI for ‘illiterate’ order to create Apple iPhone backdoor – February 23, 2016
U.S. government seeks to force Apple to extract data from a dozen more iPhones – February 23, 2016
Apple CEO Cook: They’d have to cart us out in a box before we’d create a backdoor – February 22, 2016
Tim Cook’s memo to Apple employees: ‘This case is about more than a single phone’ – February 22, 2016
Obama administration: We’re only demanding Apple hack just one iPhone – February 17, 2016>


  1. “Blow it out yer ass, you transparent, lying hack.”

    MDN, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Although I would have probably added, “…lying hack POS asshole.

  2. If you know what you are asking for, and know what precedent it sets, then it would seem your intent is the precedent itself.

    Safety before privacy. I get it, the Constitution is a real burden, so let’s wink and ignore it.

    Please don’t

  3. I’m really starting to wonder if the FBI didn’t issue the directive to change the Apple ID password on this phone to prevent it from backing up so they could go after Apple. Comey is not believable to me. I hope the truth about how the changing password came to be will come out soon.

    1. As John Gruber observed:

      The only possible explanations for this are incompetence or dishonesty on the part of the FBI. Incompetence, if they didn’t realize that resetting the Apple ID password could prevent the iPhone from backing up to iCloud. Dishonesty, if they directed the county [of San Bernardino] to do this knowing the repercussions, with the goal of setting up this fight to force Apple to create a back door for them in iOS.

  4. In one sense, every court case and ruling sets precedent. How many times do you have one side arguing a case, and they find some obscure ruling somewhere to use in their argument. The law is based upon history and precedents.

    That being said, it’s foolish to imagine some sort of conspiracy here on the part of the FBI. They didn’t create the terrorist shooting spree, they didn’t ask for this. It happened that the terrorist had a work issued iPhone. And the rest we see playing out today.

    As to the Apple ID password reset (which is not the same as the iPhone password)…my guess is that whoever reset it probably didn’t know about this iCloud backup with phone locked approach. Let’s face it: many Apple enthusiasts online didn’t think of this until it was mentioned in this case and are still trying to understand the details of this.

    Maybe someone reset it to prevent the iPhone from being erased by an accomplice? Are you aware that if someone has access to the iCloud ID, they can wipe an iPhone remotely? So maybe someone from the FBI was afraid that an accomplice would try to wipe the data from the iPhone used by the terrorist? So maybe they thought that by resetting the password they were protecting any unknown accomplices from destroying data?

    1. “…it’s foolish to imagine some sort of conspiracy here on the part of the FBI. They didn’t create the terrorist shooting spree, they didn’t ask for this…”

      Anyone who’s been paying attention for any length of time would know that the FBI has been obsessing over the issue of encrypted data, and often quite specifically bringing up Apple’s iPhone in that regard. (And they’re closely followed by other agencies, including but not limited to NYPD, etc.)

      The San Bernardino shootings clearly has been picked because of it recent newsworthiness (note that they’ve got something like 9 to 12 other cases lined up to crack iPhone security, not the one case that Comey originally claimed).

      It doesn’t pass the smell test at all.

    1. There will be some backlash no doubt, but probably not much to make a dent in sales.

      There is another issue. A friend of mine who works in security and has held local elected office, and who is very conservative politically BTW, pointed this out to me. Basically the govt is asking Apple for help and Apple is saying no. In the real world, when you turn down someone for help, they are not as receptive in the future if you come to them for help. His point is that in the future, if Apple needs or wants the govt help on something, they may be less likely to get it.

      1. The main problem with this take is that Apple was working with law enforcement on the case since at least early January, providing them with the last-backed up data from the phone’s iCloud information.

        They didn’t balk in the least, performing as they have numerous times in the past (handing over iCloud backup as per legal warrants), until the FBI demanded that they write a software tool to break into the phone for more recent data. That’s where things changed.

        1. Exactly. The FBI deliberately manufactured a crisis to force a certain outcome, and shamelessly engineered a showdown in the court of public opinion, confident in their backing by the courts and with the complicity of a not-so-White House whose lame-duck occupant is desperately piecing together some semblance of a legacy, consisting of two items: disposing of Osama bin Laden and the Constitution of the United States.

      1. What, that the FBI director isn’t being quite honest with us?

        Either he doesn’t realize that such a tool can’t be a “one-time” item, or he does and he’s lying in front of God and everyone else.

  5. Thanks to Tim Cook and Apple ‘1984’ is not going to come any time soon. As Tim said on ABC TV the other night, doing what FBI Director James ‘Commie Bastard’ Comey is trying to force Apple to do would make it so in the future anyone’s children could be tracked and traced by the US Government’s FBI. And the next step could then be (according to how Tim laid it out on ABC TV) FBI control of anyone iPhone camera. Wakeup America!!! This James ‘Commie Bastard’ Comey guy is a traitor of a free America. He’s an anti-American, enemy of the US whose dearest wish really is to be able to spy on and surveil anyone HE chooses, whenever HE chooses (know what you and your children doing and where they are)—even if it means that any bad apple in any future American government can do the same. This guy is spooky and he’s the top guy in charge of the future security welfare of all Americans in these dangerous times! And F—k Trump who is calling out to “boycott Apple” for not opening this Pandora’s Box. American’s should instead be calling out to boycott/excommunicate this slimy FBI traitor of the future freedom of the American people!

      1. Yeah, most people giving their opinions haven’t thought it though all the way. Tim Cooks ABC TV interview the other night laid it all out so clear, simple and easy to understand. He’s thought it through deeply all the way to the future, it just makes sense. The US people should all carefully consider the points he is making and then decide for themselves. Bill Gates, James Comey and others are confused and waffling or/and have hidden agendas—not focused on the security and safety of future generations of America and the world.

  6. Here’s an idea. Submit a bill for each time Apple is required to write a “new” operating system for each phone.

    Let’s see, submit a bill for…. (the original Mac OS took 100 man years to write and use that as a baseline) at XXX dollars an hour. To be paid in advance of course.

    1. Back to the tin can telephones of our childhood, and the surreptitiously passed notes in class. If Teacher caught us she’d box our ears. Is it still 1910? Alexander Graham Bell: “What hath God wrought?” indeed. Vote Luddite.

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