Apple, Terrorist Investigation, and Security

I have been following the dustup between the FBI and Apple with interest.

For the record, I am opposed to any police or government agency having access to the daily communications of people who are not under investigation. I also do not think that cracking this phone compromises the millions of other iPhones in existence.

On the other hand, in the case of the San Bernadino terrorists, there is a crime that has taken place, with a resulting legitimate investigation, and the police agencies have a legitimate requirement to access data about the criminals, including any information stored in their phone. I imagine that the records of who the criminals called has already been gathered from cell phone companies.

Apple and Apple’s supporters use the argument that any hack/engineering/software tool that Apple uses should not be in the hands of the police agencies. I agree with that.

I also suspect the tool to crack an iPhone PIN already exists.

I think that there can be a reasonable approach here. Chain of custody must be maintained. The FBI can swear select Apple employees in to an agreement that they will not disclose anything they happen to see in the phone. The FBI can send people with the phone to observe the crack process and ensure that the Apple people don’t zorch any information. Then, with the process complete, the FBI takes the phone back and harvests any information from it. The crack tool/process/person stays with Apple.

The key thing is that the tool/process remains with Apple, while the data goes to the police for investigation.

There is really no difference here in any other investigation or data request. I do think that Apple’s concern to protect all of the other iPhone users is admirable, and should be taken seriously.

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