Apple refused to comply with the Justice Department’s court order to unlock the iPhone recovered from one of the San Bernardino terrorists, but now the department claims that it has unlocked the device without taking any help from the company. Following this, the agency has withdrawn the legal effort it was making to compel the tech giant to offer assistance in unlocking the device.
No details yet on phone’s content
On Monday, the Justice Department made a two-paragraph filing stating it has been successful at accessing the data stored on Farook’s iPhone, and for this reason, is in no need of Apple’s assistance. Examination of the contents of the phone has already begun, but FBI investigators are not revealing whether they have found anything so far or not.
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In the mass shooting in San Bernardino, one of the two terrorists, Syed Rizwan, used an iPhone, but unlocking the device had required help from Apple, for which a case was filed. Apple refused to offer its help to authorities, after which the case became increasingly contentious. This incited a debate about what was more important: privacy or security.
Now the Justice Department has decided to drop the case, with which a legal standoff between the government and the Cupertino-based tech giant has come to an end (hopefully).
Apple vs. FBI: not over yet
Since law enforcement has been successful at unlocking the iPhone through an alternative method, it has given rise to new uncertainties like how powerful the security in Apple devices is, in reality. This development will possibly give rise to new conflicts between the government and Apple regarding the method used to unlock the device and whether or not the technique will be disclosed. Apple lawyers said in the past that they are interested in knowing the procedure used to crack open the smartphone, yet the government might classify the method.
According to a staff lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, Esha Bhandari, the fight between Apple and law enforcement is not over yet from a legal standpoint. In general, the government follows a process to determine whether or not it should disclose information about certain vulnerabilities so that manufacturers can patch them.
“I would hope they would give that information to Apple so that it can patch any weaknesses but if the government classifies the tool, that suggests it may not,” Bhandari said.