Should Apple help the FBI crack shooter iPhones?

Why Apple will not give the police the virtual keys to unlock two iPhones used in the terrorist act last month in Florida? That question is at the center of a debate between the company and the FBI.

Attorney General William Barr said Monday that the firing at a Navy base in Pensacola was an act of terrorism and Apple has not provided federal investigators with “substantive assistance” to offer a way to access phones beyond encryption and security features, or a call back door.

Apple rejected with a strong rebuttal, saying it helped investigators within a few hours of the first FBI request on December 6 and subsequent requests, which resulted in “many gigabytes of information we gave them.” This information was found in phone backups stored in iCloud instead of directly on the device and included account and transactional data for several accounts. “In each case, we responded with all the information we had,” Apple wrote in its statement.

The conflict lies in the push and attraction of protecting individual privacy instead of allowing law enforcement to have easy access to the devices that hold many of our secrets.

This is the same battle that the FBI fought with Apple in 2015, again related to an iPhone used in terrorist acts. After a massive shooting that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, the FBI took Apple to court to have the company unlock an iPhone recovered from one of the shooters. Finally, the FBI used an external contractor to hack the device.

Question: What is behind Apple’s refusal to create a “backdoor” that allows law enforcement to bypass encryption?

Reply: Apple has long insisted that its efforts focus on protecting consumer privacy and the sensitive financial and health data we store on our devices.

“Encryption is vital for the services we trust,” Apple’s senior global policy director Jane Horvath said last week at a panel at the CES technology industry trade show. “The phones are relatively small and are lost and stolen. If you are going to be able to rely on having our health and financial data on our devices, then we must make sure that if you lose that device, you will not lose your confidential data. “

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