Apple calls government to drop court order

Apple calls government to drop court order
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Apple on Monday called on the government to withdraw its court order demanding the company assist in unlocking an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

The tech giant says the government should instead form a commission to study the problem of encryption.

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“Apple would gladly participate in such an effort,” the company wrote in an open Q&A posted on its site.

The suggestion is the latest in the back-and-forth volley over the locked iPhone 5c of Syed Farook, who with wife Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif. in December. Apple has publicly opposed the order and is expected to file an appeal this week.

Apple writes that such a commission, “as some in Congress have proposed,” would include “experts on intelligence, technology, and civil liberties to discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy, and personal freedoms.”

The proposal is an apparent reference to a long-awaited measure, from House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), that would establish a national commission to figure out how police can get at encrypted data without endangering Americans' privacy.

The measure, expected to be detailed this week, would bring together representatives from all sides involved in an increasingly heated debate in an attempt to break the logjam.

Law enforcement and other officials warn that impenetrable encryption — cryptography that can’t be unlocked even by the manufacturer under court order — is a danger to public safety.

Advocates have joined Apple and other tech companies in arguing that providing any form of guaranteed access for law enforcement endangers the privacy and security of everyday users of the Internet.

That dispute is at the heart of the fight between Apple and the FBI. The tech giant argues that the court order is effectively demanding that it build a ‘backdoor’ that could be repurposed by cyber criminals.

“We strongly believe the only way to guarantee that such a powerful tool isn’t abused and doesn’t fall into the wrong hands is to never create it,” the Q&A reads.

FBI Director James Comey pushed back on that analysis on Sunday night, insisting that, "We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land.”

"We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist’s passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly. That’s it," he said in a statement.

The Department of Justice on Friday filed a motion to force Apple to comply, pushing back on the company's characterization of the request as a "backdoor.”

Apple has continued to indicate that it won’t budge.

“We feel the best way forward would be for the government to withdraw its demands under the All Writs Act,” the company wrote.

CEO Tim Cook also circulated an internal memo to staff on Monday morning reiterating the company's position. 

He cited the support he has received from "thousands of people in all 50 states."

"One email was from a 13-year-old app developer who thanked us for standing up for 'all future generations.' And a 30-year Army veteran told me, 'Like my freedom, I will always consider my privacy as a treasure,'" Cook wrote.