If Apple loses its encryption battle with the FBI over the data contained on a terrorist’s phone, it will make Manhattan’s district attorney and police commissioner very happy.
Despite the federal government’s claim that the updated version of the iPhone’s operating system will only be used on this case, D.A. Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. sees a government victory as a sure way to get Apple to unlock a bunch of other devices his office is sitting on. And by “a bunch,” we mean hundreds of phones that the company could suddenly be compelled to compromise.
The comments came out of an interview with Charlie Rose (via the New York Times), in which Rose asked Vance if he would pursue access to the phones in his office’s possession if the government won its case.
“Absolutely right,” Vance said.
Vance and police commissioner William J. Bratton say that they have 175 iPhones that they’d love to poke around in, but Apple’s encryption system has left them unable to do so.
The FBI is pursuing data contained in a phone that San Bernardino County issued to Syed Farook, one of the assailants in December’s mass shooting that killed 14 people. While the government doesn’t know if the device actually contains important information, it would nonetheless like Apple to help it bypass the passcode lock that is keeping it out.
Apple claims that it has provided all of the help it can and refuses to create the software the government is requesting due to its risk of making the user data on all of its devices vulnerable.
The FBI and Justice Department have countered that nowhere in the court orders does it demand that Apple turn over the updated software to authorities, but apparently Vance and Bratton didn’t hear that part because if Apple creates it, they want it. And a loss for the company might establish sufficient legal precedent to give it no choice but to comply.
CEO Tim Cook issued an e-mail to employees today restating the company’s intention to fight the court orders.
“This case is about much more than a single phone or a single investigation, so when we received the government’s order we knew we had to speak out,” Cook writes. “At stake is the data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people, and setting a dangerous precedent that threatens everyone’s civil liberties.”