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US Seeks Court to Force Apple to Unlock iPhone of San Bernardino Shooter

© AP Photo / Richard DrewApple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook - Sputnik International
The US Justice Department is seeking a court order to compel Apple to let the FBI unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters. The computer company is refusing, arguing that the move will have far-reaching consequences.

The motion, filed on Friday morning in Riverside, California, reads: “The order does not, as Apple’s public statement alleges, require Apple to create or provide a ‘back door’ to every iPhone; it does not provide ‘hackers and criminals’ access to iPhones; it does not require Apple to ‘hack [its] own users’ or to ‘decrypt’ its own phones; it does not give the government ‘the power to reach into anyone’s device’ without a warrant or court authorization; and it does not compromise the security of personal information.”

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The FBI’s demands are focused on last year’s terrorist shooting, in which 14 people were killed at a San Bernardino office holiday party. A federal judge previously ordered Apple to allow the FBI to break into an iPhone belonging to one of the shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook, and gave a February 26 deadline. Apple CEO Tim Cook promptly wrote an open letter to the public stating that the implications of creating a way to hack the iPhone would go far beyond San Bernardino, and added that his company was challenging the ruling.

“Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone,” Cook wrote. 

Cook noted that government assurances that this is a one-time issue cannot guarantee that a hacked version of the iPhone operating system would not be leaked to the public, or that federal organizations would not expand their snooping to include all iPhones.

“Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation,” Cook said. “In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.”

According to the report, which was produced in conjunction with the Intercept and is based on 2012 documents leaked by U.S. whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the surveillance dragnet codenamed Levitation has covered allied trading partners such as the U.S., Britain, Brazil, Germany, Spain, and Portugal. - Sputnik International
Edward Snowden, Google, WhatsApp Join Apple in Fighting FBI
Privacy organizations, such as Fight for the Future, have accused the federal government of exploiting the tragedy in San Bernardino to push their agenda of weakening iPhone security to enable more government surveillance, a sentiment that Apple appears to share.

"The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone's microphone or camera without your knowledge,” according to the Apple statement.

A federal court hearing in California has been scheduled for March 22.

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