Congress has called the FBI on the carpet for its attempt to require Apple to build a backdoor into the iPhone. A letter went out today from a bi-partisan group of representatives accusing the law enforcement agency of over-stating difficulties in unlocked iPhones involved in crimes.
The ten congresspeople wrote that the FBI deliberately didn’t explore all the options to unlock the iPhone belonging to a mass shooter because they wanted an excuse to force Apple to modify iOS so it’s easy for law enforcement to access.
In 2016, the FBI got a court order to force Apple to unlock the iPhone 5c of one of the San Bernardino shooters. Apple CEO Tim Cook resisted, but shortly thereafter the agency was able to access the contents of the phone with outside help, almost certainly the Israeli company Cellebrite.
Last month, a report came out indicating that the FBI went to court to force Apple to unlock the device before it talked to its internal experts or outside companies to find alternatives.
According to Reuters, the letter from the group of representatives says the agency didn’t look for options “precisely because they wanted the suit against Apple to go forward.”
Pursuit of a iPhone backdoor
The FBI still wants Apple to build an iPhone backdoor. Christopher Wray, its director, said there are almost 8,000 computers it can’t access because their contents are encrypted. The agency calls this ‘Going Dark.’
However, tools for unlocking iPhones are available to law enforcement. And plenty of companies are investing in them. The lawmakers brought this up in their letter to the FBI, and said the agency “has not been forthcoming about the extent of the ‘Going Dark’ problem.”
Privacy to the forefront
Tim Cook refuses to modify iOS in the way law enforcement wants because an iPhone backdoor would make every iOS device less secure. Hackers would inevitably find any weakness and exploit it to violate the privacy of thousands of Americans.
The letter sent by the ten Democratic and Republican representatives to the FBI shows they agree.
Congresspeople defending Apple for protecting the privacy of iPhone users stands in stark contrast to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg being grilled by other Congresspeople earlier this about his company’s rampant privacy violations.