Apple Versus FBI
On December 2, 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, attacked a San Bernardino county facility, killing 14 people and seriously injuring 22 others. The couple was subsequently killed by local law enforcement in a shootout several blocks from the facility. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened an investigation into the attack. As part of this work, an Apple (AAPL, 101.20, -0.67) iPhone owned by Farook was discovered. The FBI wanted to look at the information on his phone, but the encryption built into the device prevented authorities from accessing the data. The government has sued Apple to force the company to circumvent its security; thus far, the company has refused.
In this report, we will discuss the attack and the perpetrators, including the gathering of evidence which included the phone in question. We will explain in non-technical terms how Apple software protects the data on the iPhone. We will compare and contrast the legal positions taken by the company and the government and frame the controversy using the U.S. Constitution, examining the tensions between the Bill of Rights and the problems presented by wartime. As always, we will conclude with market ramifications.
Apple Versus FBI – The Attack and Investigation
Farook and Malik’s attack occurred at a San Bernardino County government office. Farook had worked at that office for five years, filling various positions, starting as a seasonal employee, gaining a full-time position as a county food inspector and becoming an environmental health specialist. He was born in the U.S. to parents who had emigrated from Pakistan. He was a devout Muslim.
His wife, Malik, was born in Pakistan to an upper class family. She became a pharmacist, graduating from the Bahauddin Zakariya University in Pakistan. While in this course of study she also attended classes at the Al-Huda International Seminary for Women. This seminary is affiliated with Wahhabi Islam, the conservative version of Sunni Islam practiced mostly in Saudi Arabia. Her family moved to Saudi Arabia and she met Farook through an online dating service. There is some speculation that she was radicalized in Saudi Arabia, although this has been denied by Saudi authorities. There is evidence that suggests she may have become radicalized at the seminary.
When the couple decided to marry, she began the vetting process to enter the U.S. First, she applied and was granted a K-1 (fiancé) visa with a green card. Second, Homeland Security and the State Department conducted three investigations on Malik; these did not turn up any evidence that she was a security threat.