Apple and the FBI report to Congress

This week Apple and the FBI have presented its case for maintaining the strength of its encryption to an audience that may ultimately have the final say: Congress. 9 to 5 Mac summarized the main points from each side during the 5 hours of testimony.

FBI #1: ‘Warrant-proof spaces’

The FBI asked whether it is reasonable that Apple be allowed to create environments that cannot be penetrated by the government even when it comes armed with a search warrant.

FBI testimony  

FBI #2: Costs to society

The FBI points out that allowing a cooperation to decide something like this would come at a cost to society.

FBI #3: Ancient law still valid today

Even though the All Writs Act is old the Constitution is older, and it’s still a pretty good document.

FBI #4: No other way to get the data

The FBI denied that the government possessed the means to access the iPhone without Apple’s help.

FBI #5: Apple hasn’t suggested a way forward

A member of the congressional committee, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, noted that while Apple has agreed there is a balance to be struck here between privacy and law enforcement, the company hasn’t put forward any suggestion as to how this balance might best be achieved.

Apple’s testimony

Apple #1: This could never be undone

Apple legal counsel hammered home the point that this is a one-way street – once the tool has been invented, it cannot be uninvented.

Apple #2: It wouldn’t just affect older iPhones

The tool Apple’s being asked to create will work on any iPhone in use today.

Apple #3: The tool could fall into the wrong hands

Once the tool exists, there is always the risk that it would get into the wrong hands

All it takes for things to go badly wrong is a bit of neglect in the process or the collaboration of a rogue employee.

Apple #4: We all have legitimate things to hide

The Apple legal team demolished the suggestion that only criminals and terrorists with things to hide have anything to fear.

They pointed out that smartphones are increasingly becoming like wallets, providing access to accounts (not only financial, but also various online accounts, such as Dropbox), and storing emails and notes, including ones from meetings or design drawings and the like.

Apple #5: Repressive regimes will want it too

Once the U.S. government has been given access to a master key, other governments around the world will demand the same.

Apple #6: The FBI doesn’t need Apple’s help in such cases

Apple pointed out that it wasn’t true that the government had no way to access the iPhone without Apple’s help. They described the chip de-capping technique pointed to by Edward Snowden, and that the NSA may have capabilities the FBI doesn’t.

Apple #7: This would breach both First and Fifth Amendments

Compelling Apple to write code against its will was a violation of both First and Fifth Amendments. The Supreme Court has already recognized computer code as protected speech under the First Amendment, and the Fifth Amendment protects Apple against coercion.