Apple Vs FBI: The ‘back door’ controversy

Apple Vs FBI: The ‘back door’ controversy

Apple Vs FBI: The ‘back door’ controversy

Written by Tharushan Fernando

06 Mar, 2016 | 6:03 pm

California was shaken last December, when Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife shot down and killed 14 people.


A court order demands Apple help circumvent security software on Farook’s iPhone, which the FBI said contains crucial information.

A software update in September 2014, data on Apple devices, such as text messages and photographs are encrypted by default.

This means that if a device is locked only the passcode can be used to access information and on ten incorrect attempt the devices will erase its data. Not even Apple can access the data, a measure taken after the revelations made by Edward Snowden on government surveillance.


In an official message to its customers by Apple chief executive Tim Cook back in February, the tech company took a steady stance on protecting its customers privacy



“The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand. “

(Feb16 ,2016 ;

The FBI want Apple to alter Farook’s iPhone so that investigators can make unlimited attempts at the passcode without the risk of erasing the data and also create a way to rapidly try various sequences of passcode combinations

Apple defended its stance by stating that one ‘back-door’ could lead to massive infiltration and invasion of privacy.

“The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”

(Feb16 ,2016 ;

Tim Cook describes the move by the FBI ‘a Dangerous Precedent’ and dedicates a whole section in his letter describing the sort of violation that could occur if such a ‘back door’ is created.

“The implications of the government’s demands are chilling”

However the American government argues that the access that the FBI has requested is not a ‘back-door’ and Spokesman Josh Earnest said the FBI was asking for access to only a single device.

Apple came in to the fight with its hand tied behind its back, with the court ordering Apple to comply with FBI’s request.Judge Sheri Pym had backed Apple in to a corner,ordering that the tech company has no choice but to either let the FBI ‘have’ the means to access Farook’s iphone or help the FBI create the means to get access in to the phone.


The tech-industry, however did not take FBI’s attempts lightly and Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, along with 11 other companies, filed on Thursday a joint amicus brief, a court filing that throws their support behind Apple as it prepares to face off against the US government in federal court later this month.

“While the companies that signed this brief are often fierce competitors, our unity with, Box, Cisco, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, Mozilla, Nest Labs, Pinterest, Slack, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Yahoo, reflects our deep, shared concerns about the potential ramifications of this case for technology and for our customers. At stake are fundamental questions about privacy, safety, and the rule of law.”


(Our legal brief in support of Apple; March 3, 2016 –


Twitter, AirBnB, Ebay, LinkedIn and Reddit are among a group of 17 major online companies to have formally backed Apple in its court dispute with the FBI.

Intel and AT&T have also filed separate briefs.

As the stage is set for a case that will lay the foundation for many cases to come, the unbiased argument toils with the idea of National Security or Privacy. While the plight of the families of those who suffered may fall in favor of the FBI, Salihin Kondoker, whose wife survived being shot three times in December’s terror attack, has also filed a brief supporting Apple.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Jordan's Zeid Raad al-Hussein speaks during a news conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Zeid drew comparisons between the Ebola outbreak and the Islamic State group Thursday, labeling them "twin plagues" upon the world that were allowed to gain strength because of widespread neglect and misunderstanding. (AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini)

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday, warned the US authorities that great caution was required in the legal process involving Apple and the FBI, pointing out that the outcome of the case will have potentially negative ramifications for the human rights of people all over the world.

“In order to address a security-related issue related to encryption in one case, the authorities risk unlocking a Pandora’s Box that could have extremely damaging implications for the human rights of many millions of people, including their physical and financial security,” Prince Zeid said

The UN Human Rights Chief stated that a successful case against Apple in the US will set a precedent that may make it impossible for Apple or any other major international IT company to safeguard their clients’ privacy anywhere in the world,” said.


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