The Judgement is out.. Apple doesn’t have to help FBI in the Brooklyn iPhone Case. It was indeed a victory for privacy laws of sorts, as earlier last week U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein ruled that Apple cannot be compelled by the FBI to unlock the phone in the Brooklyn drug dealer case as Congress had rejected a bill that would require companies like Apple to make the content on a locked Phone device available for onward investigation. With this ruling, Apple gains an advantage over the Federal Government over access to locked devices.
Now with a judge in California considering the case where FBI is requesting access to a locked iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino attackers, Rizwan Farook, the Brooklyn iPhone judgement will give Apple the boost needed and an additional caselaw to cite, in the massacre case. The San Bernardino shooting rampage by the husband-wife duo in California claimed 14 lives and wounded 22.
Taking a stand on cases like this is tough for sure, but like Apple’s Tim Cook revealed that complying with a court order to help the FBI break into an iPhone would set a legal precedent that can violate security & privacy rights in the future.
In hindsight, there would surely have been a middle ground that should have been explored before the filing in court. It is understood that Apple would have assisted the government in accessing the data on the iPhone in question but a formal application by the Government in court & a legal ruling, was probably the precedent Apple wanted to avoid which some opine is fair.. after all that would change the face of the security measures Apple is much revered for. This, of course is not the last we have heard of this case.. after all the US Justice Department is sure to seek review of the decision.
With the future of digital privacy now hanging in balance, we are sure the opinion wars will have people taking sides. In one hand having to chose between aiding an investigation or chasing your own right to privacy and security, the lines get blurred as both are equally important and cannot be ignored.
For now though, let’s keep in mind that the US Government has taken the decision that it is better off securing such crypto-legislative authority from the courts, as mentioned in Judge James Orenstein’s ruling. It indeed is necessary to find the balance between the necessity of access to investigating agencies and unwarranted intrusion in the life of civilians as we move ahead in this digital universe where our lives are available for all to view. What happens next in this case can change the way we look at digital security and privacy.. so its time to wait and watch!