DOJ To Court: We Got Into The iPhone, So Please Drop Our Demand To Force Apple To Help Us… This Time
from the moving-on dept
So it appears that the mainstage event over the DOJ’s ability to force Apple to help it get around the security features of an iPhone is ending with a whimper, rather than a bang. The DOJ has just filed an early status report saying basically that it got into Syed Farook’s work iPhone and it no longer needs the court to order Apple to help it comply by writing a modified version of iOS that disables security features.
The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc. mandated by Court’s Order Compelling Apple Inc. to Assist Agents in Search dated February 16, 2016.
There’s also an associated one line proposed order that magistrate Judge Sheri Pym will almost certainly sign off on shortly.
And thus… the big showdown between the tech industry and the Justice Department goes nowhere. Just a little over a month after the DOJ swore to a court that it had exhausted all possibilities that didn’t involve co-opting Apple to hack its own phones, the DOJ is admitting that the FBI has found a way in. Still, this was just one fight in a war that is still ongoing. It seems fairly clear that the DOJ and FBI expected their side of things to get a lot more support, which is why they chose the Syed Farook case to make a big public stand, rather than one of the many other cases where similar issues are at stake.
However, the overall issue is not over. There are still plenty of questions: What method did the DOJ use to get into Farook’s iPhone? And what will happen in the other cases involving iPhones or involving other companies such as Whatsapp? And what will happen as Apple and other companies increasingly strengthen their encryption and security, making it more and more difficult for the FBI to get in?
In short, this is far from over. However, in the short term, the DOJ has learned that it isn’t easy to win over public opinion on this issue, which suggests that future battles may play out under the cover of a bit more darkness, as the DOJ seeks to seal various filings and orders off from the public. My guess is that perhaps the next big fight will be in revealing what kinds of orders come through under the cover of darkness.