Apple gets short-term win over Big Brother; issue deferred, not resolved

“Less than 24 hours before a highly anticipated Tuesday court session where prosecutors and Apple lawyers would have squared off here in federal court, government attorneys suddenly got a judge to vacate that hearing and stay an unprecedented court order that would have forced Apple to aid investigators’ efforts to unlock and decrypt an iPhone linked to a 2015 terrorist attack,” Cyrus Farivar reports for Ars Technica. “In a court filing Monday, federal authorities cited a newly discovered ‘unlocking method’ that it hopes won’t require Apple’s help.”

“The sudden and unexpected postponement essentially means an immediate victory for Apple—the company doesn’t have to comply with the government’s demands to create a customized version of iOS,” Farivar reports. “But the new government filing also raises more questions than it answers, such as the reach of the government’s decryption capabilities.”

“Fred Cate, a law professor at Indiana University, told Ars that while the decision to vacate is “good news,” it represents a clear escalation in the security struggle,” Farivar reports. “‘As a practical matter, if the FBI’s new technique works, it likely means that Apple will add more protection to its devices, which is a good thing for consumers, and the FBI will be back in court in the future asking a judge to compel Apple to help the government defeat Apple’s improved security,’ he told Ars. ‘So the issue probably has been deferred, not resolved.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: They’ll wait for a child pornography case or kidnapping or similar, so they can try playing the Think of the Children™ card in their misguided quest to shred the Constitution.

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

How the U.S. government’s War on Privacy provoked a backlash – March 16, 2016
Apple: ‘Government misunderstands the technology’ involved in demanding they decrypt an iPhone – March 16, 2016
Apple: The FBI’s demand is unconstitutional – March 16, 2016
Apple says U.S. ‘Founders would be appalled’ by DOJ order – March 16, 2016
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham finally talks to tech experts, switches side to Apple vs. FBI – March 15, 2016
Obama administration begins to realize it may have made a big time mistake going after Apple over iPhone encryption – March 15, 2016
Tech companies join Apple to fight back against government overreach, prep to expand encryption of user data – March 15, 2016
Google’s Eric Schmidt is joining the Pentagon’s new How Apple realized it was at war with the FBI: The DOJ was poised to launch PR campaign designed to pull the public’s heartstrings – March 15, 2016
Richard Clarke: U.S. government more interested in setting legal precedent than solving the problem of one iPhone – March 15, 2016
Obama criticized for ‘tone deaf’ comments at SXSW regarding Apple’s fight against government overreach – March 14, 2016
The U.S. government’s fight with Apple could backfire big time – March 14, 2016
John Oliver just smartly explained Apple’s fight against U.S. government overreach – March 14, 2016
U.S. Congressman Darrell Issa at SXSW: ‘Hold your iPhone a little bit higher, so the FBI can hear us better’ – March 14, 2016
Obama pushes for iPhone back door; Congressman Issa blasts Obama’s ‘fundamental lack of understanding’ – March 12, 2016
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch backs U.S. government overreach on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert – March 11, 2016
Former CIA Director: FBI wants to dictate iPhone’s operating system – March 11, 2016
U.S. government takes cheap shots at Apple – March 11, 2016
FBI warns it could demand Apple’s iPhone code and secret electronic signature – March 10, 2016
California Democrat Diane Feinstein backs U.S. government overreach over Apple – March 10, 2016
Snowden: U.S. government’s claim it can’t unlock San Bernardino iPhone is ‘bullshit’ – March 10, 2016
Apple: The law already exists that protects us from U.S. government demands to hack iPhone – February 26, 2016
Apple said to be prepping iOS version that even it can’t hack – February 25, 2016
Apple could easily lock rights-trampling governments out of future iPhones – February 20, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook lashes out at Obama administration over encryption, bemoans White House lack of leadership – January 13, 2016
Short-timer U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder blasts Apple for protecting users’ privacy against government overreach – September 30, 2014
Obama administration demands master encryption keys from firms in order to conduct electronic surveillance against Internet users – July 24, 2013


  1. Professor Susan Crawford
    “the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA)… does not allow the government to tell manufacturers how to design or configure a phone or software used by that phone — including security software used by that phone.
    CALEA was the subject of intense negotiation — a deal, in other words. The government won an extensive, specific list of wiretapping assistance requirements in connection with digital communications. But in exchange, in Section 1002 of that act, the Feds gave up authority to “require any specific design of equipment, facilities, services, features or system configurations” from any phone manufacturer.”

  2. It’s like I said early, a better mouse a better mouse trap, and thus the pendulum swings.

    I did like this though:

    “Andrew Crocker, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, pointed out that while the public still doesn’t know what decryption capabilities the FBI and other federal agencies have, it is known that the government retains zero-days for their own purposes.”

    Yeah their own purposes and global security methinks is not one of them. Snowden’s revelations have pretty well shown what their purposes are.

    1. Their case was weakened by the amicus briefs filed by privacy advocates, security experts, and Apple’s competitors, and by the New York ruling calling the FBI’s position ‘absurd,’ and by ex-military defence officials supporting strong encryption. They were taking flak and Comey was unprepared for hostility in the congressional hearings. They feared losing, so they vacated the order. It’s chickenshit alright, because it’s likely that their mystery hacker had already contacted them right away, but that the prospect of setting a legal precedent favourable to the FBI was the fatter prize. Equally likely, the hacker is non-existent. They won’t name him and don’t need to. They need only report finding nothing of value on the iPhone in question.

  3. I don’t suppose it makes any difference to the MDN echo chamber, but the events in Brussels should highlight the extent of the IS terror network. The Economist has a good report here:

    “Sim cards taken from “burners” (pre-paid mobile phones that are used only once before being discarded) show no evidence of text messaging, e-mails or chat-room use. The conclusion is that the terrorists are using encryption for all their electronic communication, but precisely what kind may still not be known.”

    While most of us believe that the mass data gathering that the US uses is ineffective (except for Google profits), most people believe that some mechanism to uncover terrorist networks needs to be found. Endless reactionary war against a shadow army is not the world that most civil societies will accept as the new normal. I suspect even the most constitutional absolutists on MDN would be willing to allow security agencies the legal means of cell phone data access in order to exterminate terrorist networks. People change their minds when the blood of loved ones is spilled.

    So while Cook seems proud to offer a platform that he believes should be hidden from warrant views, that is not the only constitutional solution. Moreover, Cook has to consider the laws in other nations too. iOS is going to have to be flexible enough to conform to the laws in the nations where Cook wants to sell iPhones. Security administrations around the world are being tasked to find out what communications technologies and encyrption techniques the terrorists use. Apple could help by proposing reasonable procedures for case-by-case cell phone data access, or it could wait for another 30 innocent people to die in terrorist bombings.

    1. I wonder what these totalitarian-enablers are going to say the first time a terrorist overloads a nuclear power plant using the access they gained by hacking some engineer’s phone. Probably something like: “Oh my God! These tech companies have been so lazy and irresponsible not locking down our phones!”

  4. What MDN echo chamber? MDN commenters express a diversity of opinions, sometimes to the extreme, in every direction. Furthermore, stereotyping MDN’s readership is ludicrous, since most of us don’t even comment. Please don’t insinuate that people don’t understand the issues as well as you do, Mike. Keep up posting your insights, but try to be less cross with us.

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