Some Thoughts on Apple v FBI

I’ve held off writing about the case where a court has ordered Apple to develop software to break into an iPhone 5c used by a terrorist. You can read about this on thousands of websites, so I won’t go into detail here. But I do have a few thoughts I wanted to toss out for consideration.

  • Tech journalists should not write about legal issues without consulting with attorneys. I’ve seen lots of articles, and heard some podcasts, that address legal questions with little or no legal knowledge, and that offer information that is simply wrong, and proven so shortly after editors have clicked Publish. Get some lawyers to explain things to you, or don’t talk about the law.
  • Take a deep breath and think carefully each time you read a new article about this case. Information has been released that is biased and incorrect, only to be corrected the next day. It’s best to take a long view of this issue, not to believe anything you read today.
  • Do read what real computer security experts have to say about this. Especially regarding the consequences of this case for the future. (You might want to read what Christopher Soghoian has written…)
  • Remember, both Apple and the FBI are spinning this case. They both have agendas.
  • I wonder what will happen if Apple is held in contempt of court. Is Tim Cook willing to go to jail for this issue?

This looks like an issue that won’t be easily resolved. There will be lots of articles and opinions on this issue. I don’t know enough about the law to offer my own, though I strongly believe that what the FBI is asking would open the door to potential abuse.

One final point:

  • Does the US government really want their elected officials, employees, agents, and citizens to carry around communication devices that have known backdoors when they are in other countries? Because unless the CIA is building their own smartphones, this is what the world would be like if backdoors were required. Other governments would potentially be able to access information on devices owned by US citizens, as well as their own.

12 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Apple v FBI

  1. “Remember, both Apple and the FBI are spinning this case. They both have agendas.”

    Yup.

    But in a rare defense of Cupertino from me, Apple is only spinning on ONE point: the fact that they were PERFECTLY willing to unlock the phone if the Feds had done it under a sealed order. They’re only objecting because the Feds (for nefarious reasons) wanted it done publicly.

    But on the other side, the Feds, (not just the FBI), are spinning like crazy on EVERYTHING.

    • Yes, there is the question of the FBI’s having leaked this info. But Apple is also spinning a lot to maintain their reputation, and, in many ways, this is a marketing argument for Apple products.

  2. “Remember, both Apple and the FBI are spinning this case. They both have agendas.”

    Yup.

    But in a rare defense of Cupertino from me, Apple is only spinning on ONE point: the fact that they were PERFECTLY willing to unlock the phone if the Feds had done it under a sealed order. They’re only objecting because the Feds (for nefarious reasons) wanted it done publicly.

    But on the other side, the Feds, (not just the FBI), are spinning like crazy on EVERYTHING.

    • Yes, there is the question of the FBI’s having leaked this info. But Apple is also spinning a lot to maintain their reputation, and, in many ways, this is a marketing argument for Apple products.

  3. This case is interesting, and difficult. I’ll admit I tend to lean toward the Apple viewpoint in this instance, but I also know that no right is absolute. If the FBI had found plutonium in the home of the assailants, the risk to society would alter my thinking.

  4. This case is interesting, and difficult. I’ll admit I tend to lean toward the Apple viewpoint in this instance, but I also know that no right is absolute. If the FBI had found plutonium in the home of the assailants, the risk to society would alter my thinking.

  5. “Yes, there is the question of the FBI’s having leaked this info. But Apple is also spinning a lot to maintain their reputation, and, in many ways, this is a marketing argument for Apple products.”

    I fear I didn’t express myself clearly enough upthread.

    Yes, Apple is dissembling about their absolute commitment to privacy here, given they were willing to perfectly willing to unlock to phone as long as the court proceedings were sealed so the public was unaware it was doing so.

    But the Feds are dissembling about something like 23 different IMPORTANT things here. Some biggies:

    – If this is really about this phone, why not agree to Apple’s demand to do it sealed? Problem solved. Instead, this is about setting a binding precedent going forward.

    – Why pick this one phone, which is at very BEST completely peripheral to the investigation to pick a precedent settling battle? (I think the answer is obvious.)

    – I’m not an InfoSec expert, (tho I do regularly read them), but someone who knows a bit about the NSA, Snowden, says the Feds could unlock the phone on their own.

    – I could go on and on and on and on.

    In short, Apple is dissembling on one point, both to protect their marketing, AND to prevent a precedent that could be freely used by government authorities in the US and abroad in an unlimited fashion. But the Feds are dissembling on pretty much EVERYTHING.

    —–

    “I wonder what will happen if Apple is held in contempt of court. Is Tim Cook willing to go to jail for this issue?”

    Unfortunately, that’s not how it would work. Contempt of court wouldn’t put Tim Cook into jail.

    Instead, look at what happened to Yahoo in a similar situation. They got a $250,000 fine that DOUBLED every day they remained in contempt. That’s $4B per day in two weeks, continuing to exponentially expand. Obviously, even Apple’s not that rich.

    The best extra-legal resistance idea I’ve seen is that Tim Cook should very publicly make a trip to Ireland to look around at real estate…

  6. “Yes, there is the question of the FBI’s having leaked this info. But Apple is also spinning a lot to maintain their reputation, and, in many ways, this is a marketing argument for Apple products.”

    I fear I didn’t express myself clearly enough upthread.

    Yes, Apple is dissembling about their absolute commitment to privacy here, given they were willing to perfectly willing to unlock to phone as long as the court proceedings were sealed so the public was unaware it was doing so.

    But the Feds are dissembling about something like 23 different IMPORTANT things here. Some biggies:

    – If this is really about this phone, why not agree to Apple’s demand to do it sealed? Problem solved. Instead, this is about setting a binding precedent going forward.

    – Why pick this one phone, which is at very BEST completely peripheral to the investigation to pick a precedent settling battle? (I think the answer is obvious.)

    – I’m not an InfoSec expert, (tho I do regularly read them), but someone who knows a bit about the NSA, Snowden, says the Feds could unlock the phone on their own.

    – I could go on and on and on and on.

    In short, Apple is dissembling on one point, both to protect their marketing, AND to prevent a precedent that could be freely used by government authorities in the US and abroad in an unlimited fashion. But the Feds are dissembling on pretty much EVERYTHING.

    —–

    “I wonder what will happen if Apple is held in contempt of court. Is Tim Cook willing to go to jail for this issue?”

    Unfortunately, that’s not how it would work. Contempt of court wouldn’t put Tim Cook into jail.

    Instead, look at what happened to Yahoo in a similar situation. They got a $250,000 fine that DOUBLED every day they remained in contempt. That’s $4B per day in two weeks, continuing to exponentially expand. Obviously, even Apple’s not that rich.

    The best extra-legal resistance idea I’ve seen is that Tim Cook should very publicly make a trip to Ireland to look around at real estate…

  7. I’m old enough to remember the FBI spying on MLK, and there was the spying on Daniel Ellsberg’s shrink, and the anti war protesters…
    Trust that government to do the right thing?

  8. I’m old enough to remember the FBI spying on MLK, and there was the spying on Daniel Ellsberg’s shrink, and the anti war protesters…
    Trust that government to do the right thing?

Leave a Reply to PJ Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.