FBI vs. Apple

It’s all over the news. The FBI demands that Apple provide a “backdoor” to an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. The company’s CEO, Tim Cook, has so far refused, issuing a statement to employees as to why.

Is the FBI trying to entrap Apple? It has always wanted access to all of our gadgets—in the name of “national security.” But the iPhone’s hardware and software prevent surveillance by others, including governments. If the FBI prevails in court, Apple fears a slippery slope. Open a single device and there will surely be others. Also, once the government gains access, it is no small leap to nefarious “others” gaining the same access.

You may find yourself siding with Donald Trump, who condemns Apple’s refusal and urges his followers to boycott Apple. Or you may hope that Tim Cook wins the argument—in the name of “privacy.”

Long-time technology guru John Gruber thinks there’s something fishy about what’s going on. He is suspicious of the FBI’s changing, or causing to change, the Apple ID of the terrorist’s iPhone. Tim Cook has said that without the change the FBI could access the device’s data—with Apple’s assistance. He writes:

In short:

  • The data the FBI claims to want is on Farook’s iPhone.
  • They already have access to his iCloud account.
  • They might have been able to transfer the data on his iPhone to his iCloud account via an automated backup, but they can’t because they reset his Apple ID (iCloud) password.

The only possible explanations for this are incompetence or dishonesty on the part of the FBI. Incompetence, if they didn’t realize that resetting the Apple ID password could prevent the iPhone from backing up to iCloud. Dishonesty, if they directed the county to do this knowing the repercussions, with the goal of setting up this fight to force Apple to create a back door for them in iOS. I’m not sure which to believe at this point. I’d like to know exactly when this directive to reset the Apple ID password was given — “in the hours after the attack” leaves a lot of wiggle room.