Data privacy advocates, including the vast majority of top-tier smartphone manufacturers, have been dealt several heavy blows by authorities in New York and California, as well as UK law enforcement organizations, all of which seek a dangerous end to mobile encryption in the name of the greater good and the war against terrorism.
But nothing spelled doom and gloom for protectors of regular people’s personal information quite like yesterday’s US judge ruling that Apple must “assist” the FBI in probing an iPhone 5c belonging to one of the two San Bernardino shooters.
Only CEO Tim Cook promptly penned “a message to our customers” that tackles everything wrong with this seemingly lawful, innocent and specific request for decrypting the software on a very particular handheld possibly hiding a lot of heinous information.
In a nutshell, the Cupertino-based tech giant’s head honcho claims the data in question is out of the company’s own reach, and it will stay that way, no matter who wants it deciphered. That’s because building a so-called backdoor into this given iPhone or any given iPhone would make it technically possible and worryingly easy for someone with access to the decryption tool to ape its capabilities to all other iPhones in use.
Cook takes the time to underline such software “does not exist today”, and it’d be “too dangerous to create”, as it’d circumvent “several important security features.” Basically, it’d be the physical-world equivalent of a “master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks – from restaurants and banks to stores and homes.”
Apple says it’s “worked hard to support the government’s efforts to solve the horrible” San Bernardino crime, and it will continue to do so within reasonable limits, complying with “valid subpoenas and search warrants.”
Guess the FBI’s been served now, though it remains to be seen what kind of legal repercussions might Apple’s unyielding encryption policies produce.