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Spin Doctoring from FBI in the Apple Case

It is rather amazing to follow the reporting on the FBI vs Apple case in relation to the FBI’s order to Apple to provide them with software that would allow them to crack the security code on all Apple phones.

In some of those reports spin doctoring from the FBI—especially through the public media—led you to believe that Apple is not willing to assist the FBI in the San Bernardino murder case. This is, however, blatantly false. Like other ICT companies, Apple has assisted the FBI and other government agencies in all criminal cases where they were provided with a warrant; and this case is no different.

Nevertheless the ultra-conservative political and media establishment in the USA is right on the case, vilifying Apple as being un-American, supporting terrorism, and all of the other usual fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) messages that they are so good at spreading around.

In relation to the San Bernardino phone—this phone is in the hands of the FBI, and rather than cracking it they have asked Apple to write special software that would allow them not just crack this phone but all iPhones. This is what Apple quite correctly refused to do.

An interesting side effect is that this phone is the property of the Department of Health and was the murderer’s work phone, so the FBI had everything in place to investigate whatever they wanted. But they haven’t found anything that led them to other terrorists. This is not surprising, since it wouldn’t make sense to use a work phone for activities like that, as it can be easily monitored by the employer. Furthermore, the murderer burned computers and other materials before he set out on his horrific killing spree, but he didn’t throw the phone in the fire. If it would have held serious information he would most certainly have done so.

So far 99% of all the evidence available from the phone in records and other material shows that the phone is of little use to the FBI. Nevertheless, if they had really wanted the last 1% they could have asked Apple to assist them with that. Instead they asked the company to provide them with a blanket tool capable of breaking the security of all Apple phones.

Apple is an international company so if it has to give in to the American government how could it refuse requests from any other governments? It is not too hard to see where this will lead, with hackers and criminals soon being able to do exactly the same.

What the FBI is asking for is certainly not in the national interest of America—nor for that matter in the interest of global affairs. I can only see this as a short-sighted approach on the part of the FBI to obtain more power for themselves, to be used to spy on citizens rather than cooperating with the industry on a case-by-case basis.

On the positive side, the American juridical system has put limitations on the government (NSA) spying on its citizens and potentially this case could further provide guidelines (limitations) to what the FBI can do.

By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication

Paul is also a contributor of the Paul Budde Communication blog located here.

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