FBI Sharing iPhone Hacking Secret With Senators But Not Apple Inc.

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Apple is still in the dark about how the FBI broke into the iPhone 5c used by Syed Farook, one of the two terrorists involved in December’s San Bernardino attack that killed 14 innocent people. But the FBI is believed to have told the secret to some members of Congress.

FBI offered briefings to senators

A representative from Feinstein’s office confirmed to CNET that the law enforcement agency briefed Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on how it got into the iPhone 5c without Apple’s help, but the representative refused to give any details about the briefing. Feinstein is one of the backers of the bill that would give the government the power to access encrypted data. Feinstein, who is the vice-chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has called encryption “the Achilles’ heel of the Internet.”

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and co-sponsor of the encryption bill with Feinstein, was also offered a briefing but hasn’t taken it yet, according to the National Journal, which originally reported the news of the briefings by the FBI.

FBI vs. Apple fight still on

A week after the FBI said it had found an alternate way to break into the phone, it added that it had accessed the data on the iPhone successfully, but it didn’t disclose whether it would tell Apple about the method it used. Apple, however, said it wants the information to make sure its devices are secure. Both Feinstein and Burr believe Apple shouldn’t be given information on how the FBI broke into the phone, reported the National Journal.

In a statement emailed to the National Journal, Feinstein wrote, “I don’t be­lieve the gov­ern­ment has any ob­lig­a­tion to Apple.”

Often law enforcement agencies like the FBI give briefings to federal intelligence committees, but they do not have the same obligation to companies.

Encryption fight still not over

Tech firms and rights groups are arguing that strong encryption is needed to keep the data safe and protect the privacy of people, but law enforcement argues that without access to the information on mobile devices, it can’t fight crime.

Previously, it looked like President Barack Obama was in support of the bill as last month he said Americans have always made privacy trade-offs with the government for public safety. But Reuters claimed on Wednesday that the White House won’t be publicly supporting the encryption legislation that will soon be proposed by Burr and Feinstein.

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