Justice Department accuses Apple of false rhetoric, pooh-poohs privacy concerns


Ahead of the hearing due to be held on 22 March, the Justice Department has lashed out at Apple in its latest response to the company's refusal to unlock the San Bernardino iPhone. Playing an emotional game, the DoJ says "Apple deliberately raised technological barriers that now stand between a lawful warrant and an iPhone containing evidence related to the terrorist mass murder of 14 Americans."

It says that only Apple is able to remove the barriers that are currently in the way, "and it can do so without undue burden". Apple has already made it abundantly clear that it will not help the FBI in creating what it describes as a backdoor into the iPhone at the center of the case.

The FBI has present Apple with a number of options for assisting with gaining access to data held on the phone. From allowing removing the auto-erase function from the phone to building a custom version of iOS for the handset, all of the FBI's requests have been met with refusal. In its response, the Justice Department says:

By Apple's own reckoning, the corporation -- which grosses hundreds of billions of dollars a year -- would need to set aside as few as six of its 100,000 employees for perhaps as little as two weeks.

The filing says that the case 'must be decided on its facts', strongly implying that Apple is peddling falsehoods:

The Order applies to a single device and is based on the specific facts before this Court. Those compelling facts justify ordering Apple to remove the barriers to executing a warrant for an iPhone used by a terrorist who carried out a mass murder. Apple demands that the Court should instead address the broad questions whether Apple should be required to unlock every iPhone in every instance, or whether Apple should be required to give the government the means to do so. Those questions are not before this Court.

It goes on to say that the "case also does not present a 'political question' as suggested by Apple", pooh-poohing privacy arguments that have been put forward.

Apple has announced a product event for 21 March -- just a day before the hearing takes place -- and it's hard to imagine that Tim Cook won’t use this as a platform to further fight the company's corner.

This is a battle that looks set to rumble on for some time to come.

Photo credit: Maen Zayyad / Shutterstock

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