If you’ve been following news lately, you can’t have missed the brouhaha involving Apple and FBI. If you did (what rock were you under, dude?), here’s a brief summary —
In December 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook opened fire at an office party in San Bernardino, California. He was arrested by the FBI and an iPhone was found it his possession. The FBI claimed that the accused had used the iPhone the plan the attack.
The government asked Apple for help, which they gave. But Uncle Sam was not happy. The FBI asked Apple to create a backdoor into the locked iPhone — a software code that could potentially open any iPhone in the market.
Apple refused outrightly. They believed that the government wanted a way to “undermine decades of security advancements that protect [the] customers from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals”. Despite the pressure they faced, they stood by their decision.
A case was registered against Apple and the debate of privacy vs national security dominated the newspapers for weeks. The court ordered Apple to write the code. Again, Apple refused to comply with the order, saying being forced to write such a code was a violation of their right to free speech.
Tensions were running high since no one knew how far the situation could deteriorate. Now, however, a new development has taken place.
The FBI has cracked open the iPhone without Apple’s help!
There were rumors that NSA had been helping the FBI unlock the phone. Those claims have been put to rest as a federal law enforcement official revealed the identity of the party helping them to USA Today.
Cellebrite, an Israeli tech firm specializing in mobile forensic software, has reportedly been successful in unlocking the iPhone.
The Feds have signed a $15,000 contract with Cellebrite, who have developed a method to bypass the iPhone’s security without auto-erasing the contents on the device.
Consequently, the Justice Department has now withdrawn its appeal from the Supreme Court. Just so you understand the impact of that statement — a private company took on the world’s most powerful government, and forced it to back down!
Yeah, we’ll let that sink in for a bit.
There’s no doubt left that FBI’s credibility has been severely hit. They repeatedly claimed in the Court that there was “no way to open the iPhone except with the help of a specially written code that only Apple can provide.”
And now, apparently out of the blue, they have a company that can do just that. And that company is not NASA or NSA or MI6 or RAW, the big guns with tremendous technical capability No, that’s some mid-level tech firm from Israel! Yeah right!!
“They [the FBI] repeatedly lied to the court and the public in pursuit of a dangerous precedent that would have made all of us less safe. Fortunately, Internet users mobilized quickly and powerfully to educate the public about the dangers of backdoors, and together we forced the government to back down.” — Even Greer, campaign director, Fight for the Future.
All this has led us to wonder, did the FBI really have a case against Apple to begin with?
In the heat of the moment, and in the uproar of the social media fanatics, it looked like they did. But now that the smoke has settled and our rationality restored, we are not so sure.
Just to be clear, we’d never been in favour of the FBI. To quote our own article, “Would you be comfortable with the government having such a powerful tool? Something that can rip apart your privacy in a matter of seconds?”
Such power over people’s data was sure to cause severe problems some years down the lane. There was no way Apple could have ensured a lawful use of the tool, so thank god that Apple didn’t budge!
The issue of digital privacy has started to emerge as one of the most vehemently debated issues in modern societies. A lack of internationally valid legal framework has only led to further complications of the matter. It’s high time that the governments of the world came together to address it.
Bonus: If you’ve not heard John Oliver explain the concept to you, then you’ve not heard John Oliver explain the concept to you!