Who is it this time? This question always arises when US President Donald Trump takes out one of his notorious tweets. He messes with everyone in 280 characters, attacks TV presenters, politicians and companies. Now the President has buttoned up one of his flagship companies, the boss of which he strolled through a factory in Austin, Texas just a few weeks ago: Apple. And once again it's about the basics.
Trump's government is "constantly" helping Apple in trade and other matters, he laments. Yet the company refuses to allow government agencies like the FBI to access encrypted phones "used by murderers, drug dealers, and other violent criminal elements." He therefore asked those responsible: "You have to face the challenge NOW and help our great country!"
We are helping Apple all of the time on TRADE and so many other issues, and yet they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements. They will have to step up to the plate and help our great country, NOW! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2020
The curse was based on a statement by Secretary of Justice William Barr that Apple had been "no substantial help" in solving a Saudi officer’s attack on a Florida naval base last December. The FBI was able to secure two iPhones, but the investigators would not be able to access the data without the password. However, Apple categorically refuses to backfire law enforcement to gain access to potentially investigative data.
We know the argument?
Who asks himself now: Apple, encryption, FBI – there was something, he's right. Almost five years ago, an almost historical dispute flared up between law enforcement officers and Apple. Back then, the FBI wanted to force Apple to crack Syed F.'s encrypted iPhone. F. was one of the assassins of San Bernardino. Together with his wife, he shot 14 people in the small town of California, and 22 others were injured. The couple, which is said to have supported the terrorist organization "Islamic State", died in a gun battle with the police.
This became a problem for the US federal police because Syed F.'s iPhone was encrypted. The FBI then asked Apple to crack the iPhone – but Apple boss Tim Cook opposed the court order. "We cannot allow this dangerous precedent," Cook warned in an open letter at the time. It was no less than freedom, he argued. Other big names in the tech world joined Cook's side, including Whatsapp founder Jan Koum and Google boss Sundar Pichai. Silicon Valley braced Washington.
Apple is committed to data protection
In the end, the FBI had the iPhone cracked by an outside company, and Apple's stubbornness made it stand out from the rest of the Silicon Valley. Since then, Apple has never missed an opportunity to share its point of view. Apple's software chief Craig Federighi, who is largely responsible for the security of the iPhone operating system, said it would make no sense to secure the devices against attackers, but to build a backdoor for themselves – not even for the "good guys".
“It would be extremely difficult to protect yourself against possible abuse by malicious people in the future. In the end, we hope that governments will appreciate the idea and realize that it is to everyone's advantage if everyone uses secure systems, "Federighi said last year in an interview with star, It is a hope that has not come true after Trump's recent abuse.
The FBI is concerned with the principle
Apple has already expressed itself in the current debate. For example, "several gigabytes" of data have been made available, such as information from the iCloud storage and the perpetrator's accounts. Presumably, this is data that Apple can access without having to decrypt it. Apple usually responds to inquiries "within hours," the company said.
In the current case, according to media reports, it is a password-protected iPhone 5 and an iPhone 7 Plus. Both devices are several years old and do not offer the security mechanisms of current models. These devices can be cracked by specialized companies, writes, for example, the US portal "Bloomberg". The FBI could use the same vulnerability that had been exploited on the San Bernardino phone. But the federal authority seems to be concerned with the principle.
Apple vs. FBI – is the case going to court?
The American Civil Liberties Union – a non-governmental organization that campaigns for civil rights – is standing alongside Apple and warns that breaking encryption can play a role in the game of hostile actors. "There is simply no conceivable way for Apple to give the FBI access to encrypted communication without giving authoritarian regimes the same access," says ACLU spokeswoman Jennifer Granick.
Now that the Attorney General has received rifle aid from the US President in person, the last word shouldn't be spoken yet. According to a report in the "New York Times", Apple is already preparing for a legal battle.
By the way, Trump's tweet, which has fueled the debate, has three words: "Twitter for iPhone".
Read more about privacy:
– Reportage from Cupertino: The star visiting Apple's secret laboratory
– Interview with Apple's software boss: "We have no interest in finding out everything about you"
– Expert on privacy: "Based on some data, it can even be seen whether and with whom you have an affair"