Wednesday February 17, 2016
Apple has decided to fight an unprecedented and highly controversial order by US Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym that the company has to assist the government in breaking into one of its encrypted phones. Apple says that it does not have the technology and does not want to be part of such an effort to create a privacy stripping tool for the FBI. Pym seems to believe that she can order companies to become unwilling participants in surveillance research and development. I fail to see her legal basis for such an extraordinary order against a private company.
CEO Tim Cook said the order by US Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym “has implications far beyond the legal case at hand”. He said that the company cooperated with the FBI “But now the US government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.”
Pym has gone far beyond what I consider the scope of her authority. Indeed, her actions appear almost legislative in nature. Congress has not ordered such back door access to be supplied by companies and such a move would raise difficult privacy questions. It would also conflict with some other countries that have balked at the effort of the Obama Administration to strip phones of privacy encryption protections.