California Dems back FBI in Apple dispute

California Dems back FBI in Apple dispute
© Getty Images

Two California lawmakers this week argued that Apple should comply with a court order requiring it to assist investigators in unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

“Refusing to help law enforcement and the intelligence community risks the safety of Americans abroad and at home and leaves gaps in our national security. Our partners in technology can and should do everything in their power to help the FBI get the information it needs to prevent future terrorist attacks,” Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate left in limbo by Trump tweets, House delays Children should not be human shields against immigration enforcement The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Immigration drama grips Washington MORE (D-Calif.) and Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif) wrote in a Time magazine op-ed.

The tech giant this week formally opposed the order demanding it write a piece of software that would disable certain security features and allow the FBI to hack into the phone. The device belonged to Syed Rizwan Farook, who with his wife killed 14 people last year in California.

The FBI insists that its request is narrow and would not introduce a widespread vulnerability into Apple’s products. It argues access is critical to its investigation into the shooting.

But Apple, backed up by privacy advocates and technologists, say that no matter its scope, the software would amount to a “back door” that hackers could use to crack all iPhones.

The company also argues it would set a dangerous precedent that would ultimately allow the government to compel access to any device it wished.

The case part of a larger debate over the amount of guaranteed access law enforcement should have into encrypted devices.

Feinstein and Aguilar supported the FBI’s position, arguing that the FBI's request will only affect Farook’s phone.

“While this incident has generated a great amount of controversy regarding security and privacy, we think it's important at this time to focus just on the judge's order in this particular case,” the lawmakers write.

“Other requests by the Justice Department and other jurisdictions should be evaluated on an individualized basis,” they said.

Feinstein, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been a vocal detractor of unbreakable encryption since the San Bernardino attacks sparked fears that terrorists were using the technology to communicate beyond the reach of law enforcement.

She is working with committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHillicon Valley: New FTC chief eyes shake up of tech regulation | Lawmakers target Google, Huawei partnership | Microsoft employees voice anger over ICE contract On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending Senate Intel requests more testimony from Comey, McCabe MORE (R-N.C.) on a bill that would force companies to decrypt data under court order.

The tech community and privacy advocates have condemned the efforts. They say such a move would weaken digital privacy and create vulnerabilities that both criminals and the government could exploit.

“Complying with a judge's order and helping authorities investigate this terrorist act does not compromise Apple's commitment to privacy,” the lawmakers wrote. “Rather, it supports the duty of law enforcement to protect and serve, and it aids in pursuing justice for the innocent lives lost at the hands of terrorists.”