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Legal News in Minnesota

Court Orders Apple, Inc. to Create New Technology Undermining its Encryption

On February 16, 2016, a United States Federal Magistrate in California issued an order igniting a nation-wide debate over privacy and data security.  Apple notes while it believes the FBI’s intentions are good, what the FBI seeks has considerable implications.

The FBI using an obscure law, the All Writs Act of 1789, obtained an order from the Federal Court compelling Apple to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, removing security features and developing new software capabilities to the operating system bypassing all encryption.  Apple is being ordered to create new technology to undermine its privacy-protection encryption.  According to Apple, the court order seeks Apple to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

The court order provides:

2.  Apple’s reasonable technical assistance shall accomplish the following three important functions: (1) it will bypass or disable the auto-erase function . . . (2) it will enable the FBI to submit passcodes to the SUBJECT DEVICE for testing electronically . . . and (3) it will ensure that when the FBI submits passcodes to the SUBJECT DEVICE, software running on the device will not purposefully introduce any additional delay . . .

3.  Apple’s reasonable technical assistance may include . . . providing the FBI with a signed iPhone Software file, recovery bundle, or other Software Image File (“SIF”) that can be loaded onto the SUBJECT DEVICE.

Apple challenges the court order “to assist law enforcement”.   The software requested does not exist today and the software would have the potential to unlock any iPhone.  Apple argues the implications of the government’s demands are chilling.  If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data.

Apple has challenged the court order.

Scott Kelly
Daniel Bellig
Farrish Johnson Law Office