This afternoon the FBI and Apple spoke before a congressional panel regarding iPhone encryption. This case has to do with unlocking a singe iPhone, says the FBI, one owned by a San Bernardino shooter. After a New York Magistrate Judge (James Orenstein) ruled against the FBI on compelling Apple to unlock this iPhone, the FBI and Apple went to congress to continue to speak on the issue. Apple's arguments have been straightforward. The FBI's arguments have stacked with fear mongering statements aplenty.
The hearing went by the name "Encryption Tightrope: Balancing Americans’ Security and Privacy." Very fancy. This isn't just a standard court case - not your everyday sort of situation.
Apple sent Senior Vice President and General Counsel Bruce Sewell to speak with this United States House of Representatives Committee of the Judiciary.
"When the FBI came to us in the immediate aftermath of the San Bernardino attacks, we gave all the information we had related to their investigation," said Sewell. "And we went beyond that by making Apple engineers available to advise them on a number of additional investigative options."
Apple DID help law enforcement. They provided everything they had regarding the case, AND went above and beyond the call of duty to assist.
"But we now find ourselves at the center of an extraordinary circumstance," continued Sewell. "The FBI has asked a Court to order us to give them something we don’t have. To create an operating system that does not exist — because it would be too dangerous. They are asking for a backdoor into the iPhone — specifically to build a software tool that can break the encryption system which protects personal information on every iPhone."
Apple gets to the core of the situation - why, after NYC ruled against the FBI, that Apple was approaching this congressional panel.
"The American people deserve an honest conversation around the important questions stemming from the FBI’s current demand: Do we want to put a limit on the technology that protects our data, and therefore our privacy and our safety, in the face of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks?"
"Should the FBI be allowed to stop Apple, or any company, from offering the American people the safest and most secure product it can make?"
"Should the FBI have the right to compel a company to produce a product it doesn't already make, to the FBI’s exact specifications and for the FBI’s use?"
You can see the entire statement by Bruce Sewell via the House online.
The FBI sent its director James Comey to speak with this same congressional panel. After speaking for several paragraphs about how the FBI valued electronic privacy and citizen's right to communicate with one another without unauthorized government surveillance, Comey began listing how terrible it'd be if "criminals and terrorists" got ahold of an iPhone.
"The benefits of our increasingly digital lives, however, have been accompanied by new dangers, and we have been forced to consider how criminals and terrorists might use advances in technology to their advantage," said Comey.
"For example, malicious actors can take advantage of the Internet to covertly plot violent robberies, murders, and kidnappings; sex offenders can establish virtual communities to buy, sell, and encourage the creation of new depictions of horrific sexual abuse of children; and individuals, organized criminal networks, and nation-states can exploit weaknesses in our cyber-defenses to steal our sensitive, personal information."
By the second page of Comey's written statement, we're already attempting to scare readers into submitting to the FBI's wishes. Submit, that is, unless we want to just let these robbers, murderers, and kidnappers establish virtual communities unabated!
The FBI's argument requires that it reach out and attempt to tie in cases that have no baring on the case at hand. Comey goes on to suggest that this case will have an affect on terrorist groups like ISIL.
"Terrorist groups, such as ISIL, use the Internet to great effect," said Comey.
"With the widespread horizontal distribution of social media, terrorists can spot, assess, recruit, and radicalize vulnerable individuals of all ages in the United States either to travel or to conduct a homeland attack."
In other words - if the FBI does not have court-ordered access to iPhones, ISIL will have unhindered access to your children.
You can read the entire FBI statement if you'd like to go further in-depth via the House.
Have a peek at the timeline below for more information on this ongoing case.