Apple Rejects FBI Request to Unlock iPhone

The FBI wants Apple to help them unlock a criminal’s iPhone. Once again, the iPhone maker has rejected the FBI’s request.

By Chand Bellur

January 8, 2020 at 8:29 p.m. PDT

FBI Requests Apple to Unlock Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani’s iPhone

Last month, an armed assailant shot and killed three people at a Navy base in Pensacola, Florida. The FBI sent a letter asking Apple to unlock the shooter’s iPhone. Apple has rejected the request, as they don’t have a back door into their products and won’t develop one.

The FBI’s request reinitiates an important conversation about privacy versus security. Unlocking criminals’ digital devices can provide valuable clues to solve and prevent serious crimes.

If companies like Apple build back doors into their products, however, they may be exploited. Hackers could break into these backdoors. This is much more difficult to accomplish if the back doors don’t exist in the first place.

Apple Doubles Down on Privacy at CES

For the first time in a long time, Apple made an appearance at CES. Amongst their presence, senior director, Jane Horvath, was on a panel with representatives from Facebook, the FTC and Procter & Gamble. Horvath was asked about privacy and how Apple uses encryption.

During the panel discussion, Horvath clearly stated Apple’s position on privacy:

“Our phones are relatively small and they get lost and stolen. If we’re going to be able to rely on our health data and finance data on our devices, we need to make sure that if you misplace that device, you’re not losing your sensitive data.”

The Apple senior director also reiterated that Apple would have to build special software to hack into their own devices. In essence, they would have to develop a back door, which also creates a vulnerability.

Given that placating the FBI would require Apple to spend money to the detriment of their products and customers, such a move is unlikely. As with previous requests, the FBI will likely seek the assistance of a third party company in unlocking the assailant’s iPhone.

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