FBI seeks 'dangerous power' in fight over phone: Apple

WASHINGTON -- In its first salvo in a court fight that pits digital privacy rights against national security, Apple Inc.

See Full Article

asked a federal magistrate to reverse her order forcing the company to help the FBI hack into a locked iPhone.

The Thursday filing -- a day before its formal objection was due and as FBI Director James Comey defended the FBI stance on Capitol Hill -- accused the federal government of seeking "dangerous power" through the courts and of trampling on the Cupertino-based company's constitutional rights.

The arguments by Apple attorneys, outlined a day before the company's annual shareholders meeting scheduled for Friday, built upon those voiced by the company's chief executive and supporters in the last week and set the stage for a prolonged fight with legal arguments that may take the issue as far as the Supreme Court.

The Justice Department is proposing an unprecedented and "boundless interpretation" of the law that, if left unchecked, could bring disastrous repercussions, the company warned in a memo submitted to Magistrate Sheri Pym in California that aggressively challenges policy justifications put forward by the Obama administration.

"The government says: 'Just this once' and 'Just this phone.' But the government knows those statements are not true," lawyers for Apple wrote.

The locked iPhone 5C in question was a work phone linked to Syed Farook, who with his wife Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people in a Dec. 2 terror attack in San Bernardino, California, which was at least partly inspired by the Islamic State group. Two personal cellphones were found so badly destroyed that investigators couldn't retrieve data from them.

Justice Department lawyers were reviewing Apple's brief and will respond, said spokeswoman Melanie Newman. She said Apple had reversed "its long-standing" co-operation with government requests, and that when Justice Department officials want to search a phone or another electronic device, "we narrowly target our request to apply to the individual device" and get a judge's approval.

The court fight is set on new ground that could create meaningful precedent and establish new legal boundaries on how technology is dealt with in the national security context when encrypted devices increasingly proliferate and so many of the overarching laws governing their use are antiquated.

Over the last year, law enforcement officials have spoken out about their inability to access encrypted data. In the California case, the phone was found after investigators searched a car with a warrant after the attack and then couldn't access the locked iPhone, despite working with Apple and Farook's employer.

Comey reiterated to lawmakers Thursday that the government owed it to victims' families to conduct a thorough investigation. Some family members and survivors of the attack have said they'll be filing a brief in support of the government's position.

Pym directed Apple to help the FBI hack its phone by creating specialized software that will let investigators bypass time-delay and self-destruct security protocols so that it can repeatedly and quickly test passcodes in what's known as a brute force attack without risking loss of the phone's data after 10 tries.

In court papers, Apple derisively called the specialized software the FBI requested "GovtOS," a play off the formal name for its iOS operating software for iPhones and tablets.

Apple, which must convince Pym that the order is an "unreasonable burden," argues that her order expands judicial power and is a political issue that Congress should decide. Apple's attorneys also say the legal order is a new expansion of the 1789 All Writs Act, which has been used to require third parties to help law enforcement in investigations. A federal magistrate in New York remains poised to rule on whether the catchall law has the power to force Apple to bypass security protocols on its behalf in a drug case.

Apple states in its filing that creating the new software would require "significant resources and effort," forcing it to dedicate six to 10 engineers for up to four weeks in a new "hyper-secure isolation" room.

The order would "effectively require Apple to create full-time positions in a new 'hacking' department to service government requests and to develop new versions of the back door software every time iOS changes" plus those engineers would likely have to testify as government witnesses in trials.

Plus, "if the new operating system has to be destroyed and recreated each time a new order is issued, the burden will multiple," the filing states.

Apple's attorneys said "there are hundreds of demands to create and utilize the software waiting in the wings," noting Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who's said his office has 175 iPhones it can't open. Apple is opposing requests to help extract information from 14 Apple devices in California, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York.

Should Apple not destroy the new operating system, it would have to protect it from "criminals, terrorists, and hackers" gunning for code to access material on millions of iPhones, the attorneys state.

Apple compared forcing it to create software that doesn't exist to weaken the iPhone's locks to forcing a journalist to publish false information to arrest a fugitive or forcing another software company to implant a virus in a customer's computer so the government could eavesdrop. It argued that such a precedent could lead to many other potentially more invasive requests.

Attorneys for Apple also argued that forcing Apple to use its cryptographic signature to validate the code so that Farook's iPhone would recognize and accept the new operating system would be "compelled speech and viewpoint discrimination" and violate the First Amendment. Prior court precedent has treated computer code as speech and Apple's attorneys say that the government is forcing Apple to speak on its behalf through code, adopting a security and privacy viewpoint the company does not support.

The government's response is due by March 10. A hearing is scheduled for March 22.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • NASA satellite imagery provides animation of 'breathing' Earth

    Tech & Science CBC News
    It's a view of our planet you've likely never seen: a living, breathing Earth. Using several satellites, NASA has provided a new view of Earth with 20 years of observations. The animation illustrates the changing seasons, from a snow-covered Canada to the waning and waxing ice of the Arctic and Antarctic. Source
  • 'Breathing' Earth seen from space

    Tech & Science CBC News
    It's a view of our planet you've likely never seen: a living, breathing Earth. Using several satellites, NASA has provided a new view of Earth with 20 years of observations. The animation illustrates the changing seasons, from a snow-covered Canada to the waning and waxing ice of the Arctic and Antarctic. Source
  • Ontario researcher joins annual NASA-funded Antarctica meteorite search

    Tech & Science CTV News
    An Ontario physicist is embarking on a NASA-funded expedition to Antarctica to collect meteorites, in hopes that the fallen space rocks will give researchers new insight into the outer reaches of the solar system. Scott VanBommel, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Guelph, is joining the annual Antarctic Search for Meteorites for a six-week excursion to the Transantarctic Mountains, about 350 km from the South Pole. Source
  • Potent greenhouse gas methane could be cut for 'near-zero' cost: study

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Canada's oilpatch could get a big head start on reducing emissions of a powerful greenhouse gas for a "near zero" cost, says an academic study on the price of methane reduction. "Industry, as a whole, doesn't suffer," said David Tyner, a Carleton University professor whose analysis was presented recently at a conference in Ottawa on the issue. Source
  • Some greenhouse gas methane could be cut for 'near-zero' cost: study

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Canada's oilpatch could get a big head start on reducing emissions of a powerful greenhouse gas for a "near zero" cost, says an academic study on the price of methane reduction. "Industry, as a whole, doesn't suffer," said David Tyner, a Carleton University professor whose analysis was presented recently at a conference in Ottawa on the issue. Source
  • 11 months, 90,000 km later, Birder breaks record for most species spotted in Ont.

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Jeremy Bensette has travelled more than 90,000 kilometres across Ontario over the course of 2017 in pursuit of his passion: bird watching. Eleven months after beginning his "Big Year," the 27-year-old has broken the record for the most bird species spotted in a single year in Ontario. Source
  • Energy-efficient light bulbs increasing light pollution, new study suggests

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A team of international researchers has found that, despite an increase in energy-efficient LED bulbs, surface light pollution has increased around the world. That, they say, is due to the so-called rebound effect: lighting has become cheaper and more energy efficient, so people are using more lights more often. Source
  • 'A bad feeling in the pit of my stomach': Bees vanish from Brock research project

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Miriam Richards has been studying bees for 28 years, and she's never been quite this panicked.'Living in a world without fantastical creatures, it just sounds to me so barren and depressing.'- Miriam Richards, Brock University professor of biological sciences Source
  • Cellphone companies may need to step up privacy protections, minister says

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Cellphone companies may need to do a better job protecting their customers, in light of a CBC/Radio-Canada investigation showing security vulnerabilities in Canada's two largest cellphone networks, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said. And if telecommunications companies need "encouragement" to better protect privacy, the government will provide it, he said. Source
  • World's only particle accelerator for art revs up in Paris

    Tech & Science CTV News
    The world's only particle accelerator dedicated to art was switched on at the Louvre in Paris Thursday to help experts analyze ancient and precious works. The 37-metre (88-foot) AGLAE accelerator housed underneath the huge Paris museum will be now be used for the first time to routinely study and help authenticate paintings and other items made from organic materials. Source