Apple can't give real time iMessage data to the FBI because texts are encrypted


Despite a court order instructing the company to hand over text conversations between iMessage accounts to the FBI, Apple says that its own encryption system means it cannot do so. The Justice Department obtained a court order that required Apple to provide real time access to text messages sent between suspects in an investigation involving guns and drugs.

Apple has responded by saying that the fact iMessage is encrypted means that it is simply not able to comply with the order. The stand-off between the US government and Apple could last for some time as neither side is willing -- or possibly able -- to back down.

Just as in the UK, the US government has voiced opposition to encryption systems that it argues make it difficult to gain access to certain data. The situation with Apple is the highest-profile case about encryption and where it sits in relation to investigations, but it is certainly not the first of its kind. Microsoft has already withheld emails that courts requested access to, and it is likely that more and more cases will follow.

While security experts have pointed out that any limitations placed on encryption pose a security risk, many tech companies -- including Apple, Google, and Microsoft -- are strongly opposed to the idea of either doing away with encryption or providing government backdoors.

Apple users will be pleased to hear that the company appears to be standing its ground, placing greater importance on privacy and encryption than the government would like. It has been argued that any backdoors that might be built into products, or the construction of any system that could allow government access to communications, could be easily exploited by other parties. To that end, Apple is standing by its decision to implement end-to-end encryption, having conceded only to hand over the content of some messages to the FBI, rather than providing real time access as requested.

Photo credit: Dmitro2009 / Shutterstock

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