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Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

FBI unlocks iPhone as data privacy battle continues

FBI unlocks iPhone as data privacy battle continues


'Principled' mobile giant locked in fight to restore trust, says legal expert

The FBI has unlocked an iPhone belonging to the San Bernardino gunman with the help of a 'third party', the US Department of Justice has said.

The US government asked a California magistrate judge to vacate a controversial order compelling technology giant Apple to assist the FBI in its investigation.

The move saw the end of a legal challenge, in which the Cupertino-based companyhad been ordered to access Syed Rizwan Farook's phone by the FBI to help with its ongoing investigation into the terrorist attack.

In December, Farook and his wife killed 14 people in San Bernadino, California, before they were shot dead by police.

A statement from Apple reads: 'From the beginning, we objected to the FBI's demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent.

'As a result of the government's dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought.

'Apple believes deeply that people in the United States and around the world deserve data protection, security, and privacy. Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk.'

While the smartphone maker may seek a hollow victory in not fulfilling the FBI's demands, the mere fact that the iPhone 5C could be accessed will raise concerns in Silicon Valley.

Having initially rejected the order to create a 'backdoor', Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, said the US government's demands could place tens of millions of Americansat risk from cybercriminals.

He received support from fellow tech giant Google and social media heavyweights Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey.

Phil Lee, a data protection partner at Fieldfisher, said Silicon Valley is faced with a difficult challenge as it seeks to protect users' data.

'You might think that Apple should have handed over the data to the FBI in the first place, but Apple's point is that building in security back doors to their products comes at the expense of everyone's privacy, and that's a principle that they're not prepared to concede.

'Silicon Valley companies have taken a public beating over recent years for not doing enough to protect their users' data, but Apple is taking a stand. At stake is not only the privacy of our communications, but whether Silicon Valley can restore the trust that it's lost.'