Civil liberties groups back Apple against FBI in Pensacola iPhones case

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Three different civil liberties groups are backing Apple in its refusal to create a weakened version of iOS to allow the FBI access to two iPhones used by the Pensacola shooter.

They support Apple’s position that compromising iPhone encryption would be a far greater risk to national security than not gaining access to the phones…

Background

History repeated itself when the FBI asked Apple to unlock two iPhones belonging to the suspected shooter at the Pensacola Naval Air Station – the same demand it made in the San Bernardino case.

Apple handed over iCloud backups of the phones, which would contain almost a complete copy of the data on the phones, which the FBI dismissed as ‘no substantive assistance.’

The Cupertino company said it couldn’t do more as it would be totally unsafe to create a backdoor into the phones.

We have always maintained there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys. Backdoors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers

This is a point we’ve made ourselves both before and after the San Bernardino case.

Things got stranger when it later turned out that the FBI didn’t even need Apple’s assistance: the iPhones were older models which are now trivially crackable by third-party companies and equipment.

Indeed, it turns out that the FBI even managed to use such kit to unlock an iPhone 11 Pro.

Statements by civil liberties groups

Business Insider obtained statements from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

The ACLU said that it was simply too dangerous.

There is simply no way for Apple, or any other company, to provide the FBI access to encrypted communications without also providing it to authoritarian foreign governments.

The EFF said compromising the privacy of millions was too high a price.

Electronic Frontier Foundation general counsel Kurt Opsahl agreed, telling Business Insider in a statement that the FBI’s request “imperils millions of innocent Americans and others around the globe, and is a poor trade-off for security policy.”

EPIC said it’s not just personal data at stake.

“It’s not some simple trade-off that somehow increases national security at the cost of one person’s individual privacy,” Alan Butler, general counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told Business Insider.

Butler said the bigger threat is weaker encryption, which could make it easier for bad actors to access people’s devices in addition to law enforcement. The very point of encrypting a device is to provide its user with increased security, he said, whether that means protecting their financial information against cyber theft or safeguarding their home against physical theft.

“People have apps on their phones that control the security systems in their homes,” Butler said, adding, “What’s more unsecure than a criminal being able to unlock your phone and therefore literally unlock your front door?”

Image: WKOW

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