Technology and Legal Precedents

For those of you living underground and interacting with mole people, there is currently a nauseating battle, here on the surface, between the Federal Bureau of Investigations and Apple Inc.

Now, I know what you are thinking: Fuck Apple!  And fuck their overhyped, exorbitant products!

A well-proportionate amount of the critiques targeted towards Apple are justified. I’m overwhelmed with guilt just for using my iPhone, acknowledging the cruel labor conditions young children in Chinese factories have to endure in making these products.

Of course, I could say the same about most of my clothing and furniture.

First World Problems, eh?

Nevertheless, I think Apple is correct in maintaining resilience against the FBI’s provocations.  And yes, they are unreasonable provocations.

This fierce battle is tied to the San Bernardino Shooting perpetrated by Syed Rizwan Farook, a health inspector for the San Bernardino County Dept of Public Health, and his Pakistani-born wife Tashfeen Malik.  In the aftermath of the shooting, the FBI recovered an county-own iPhone 5C used by Farook.images.jpg

The FBI obtained access to Farook’s iCloud backups.  However, the backups only extended to October.  FBI officials deduced that there must be pieces of information within the iPhone itself that could potentially solve the puzzle.

The FBI performed the brilliant tactic of resetting the iCloud password.  This strategy did the opposite of the intended objective.  If they had been smart, the FBI could have easily brought the iPhone within a Wifi network, plug it into power, allowing a new backup which they could have accessed.

So basically the FBI kicked themselves in the balls, and proceeded to slice them off!

Now, FBI officials could attempt to guess the iPhone’s passcode using any set of combinations.  However, with the iPhone 5C, they would only get ten tries. Therefore. the FBI is now demanding Apple engineers to create a new version of an IOS, allowing them unlimited attempts to guess the passcode before an auto-erase function is activated.

Despite all of Apple’s flaws, its products are notable for their highly advanced security-features, including the auto-erase function. This hypothetical IOS that the FBI is proposing would undermine the safety assurance numerous Apple customers rely on by weaken its encryption platform.

The FBI is essentially being given a ‘master key’ to unlock Farook’s iPhone.  Although they may claim that this ‘master key’ will only be used for this particular iPhone, one cannot be too paranoid this day and age.  There are twelve pending cases involving iPhones in which the FBI is requesting Apple to crack the code. Given its history, the FBI is the last organization I would trust.

If Apple was to comply with the FBI orders, a precedent will be set allowing the FBI and other government agency to make similar demands to any company.  While I sympathize with the emotional turmoil the loved ones of the victims are going through, our personal liberty, along with cyber-security, should never be negotiated.

We must understand that not only this request unfeasible but it is also illegal. While FBI cites the  Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act and the All Writs Act as grounds for its orders, their reasoning is nothing more than mental gymnastics.

Under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, companies are not responsible for decrypting communications under section 1002b(3). Furthermore, in a case involving a drug dealer, James Orenstein, a US magistrate judge from Brooklyn ruled the All Writs Act, a federal statute  authorizing the courts to “issue all writs (written orders) necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law”, does not extend to unlocking an iPhone.

Perhaps our laws have not advance to the level of accommodating modern technology.  This mind-numbing case is one of many debates involving the battle between cyber-security and national security.  I suppose law enforcement personal, our judges and other elected officials need to be more technologically-literate in order to ensure the safety of our nation without resorting to impractical, and potentially dangerous requests.

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