On Dec. 2, 2015, 14 people were killed in San Bernardino, California, when a man and a woman opened fire on a local social service center. The shooting was the nation’s largest mass assault since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, nearly three years ago.
Gunman Syed Farook, who was killed along with his wife in a police shootout after the attack, left behind an iPhone 5C. The FBI has since been trying to unlock the cell phone to gain more information regarding the attack, but has been unsuccessful in doing so.
President Barack Obama’s intelligence officials met with Apple CEO Tim Cook to get them to unlock the iPhone, but Apple resisted.
What is the government doing?
Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of the Federal District Court for the District of Central California recently ordered Apple to bypass the security lock on the iPhone.
The FBI said it wanted Apple to create a decrypting software that would bypass Apple’s entire security system.
FBI officials argued security on technology is not just an issue with this case, but will continue to affect future cases with the rise of availability of devices like the iPhone.
The Justice Department has full White House support in the case, but Apple is directly refusing to assist the government.
How has Apple responded?
Last year, Obama refused legislation requiring technology companies to have any sort of decryption software. Since Apple has the right to protect its users, the fight to unlock the iPhone 5C has become highly contentious between the Obama Administration and Apple.
In response to Pym’s order, Cook wrote a lengthy letter to Apple users explaining how the government is demanding a breach of privacy and overstepping its boundaries, posted on the Apple website.
Cook said this overreach breaches the privacy of not one but millions of customers.
According to Cook, unlocking the iPhone would set a dangerous precedent of privacy invasion. He added the order undermines the security system Apple has in place to protect its users.
What happens next?
Companies in the past have been asked to decrypt their products for an investigation, but because of Apple’s name and global reputation, this particular request has caused much controversy and has sparked heated debate about privacy laws.
Apple supporters said the court order is another example of the government being over-involved and commended Cook for protecting the brand.
Some people worry that if the FBI gains access to decryption software, it will overuse it and threaten individual privacy.
On one hand, the government is asking Apple to take invasive steps. But on the other hand, the San Bernardino shooting was a brutal attack with many unanswered questions. Unlocking this could help the United States further enhance its national security protection measures.
Both Democrats and Republicans are criticizing Apple’s decision to resist aiding the FBI’s investigation, and Apple may soon call an appeal to the Supreme Court for a ruling.