The Case of Apple Versus the FBI

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The case of FBI versus Apple Company arose as a result of the Apple tech firm declining to create new software that will unlock the iPhone of Farook and help the law enforcement agency in investigating the terrorist attack. FBI was investigating the case of Farook who killed many people, but the company refused to give them passcode. The firm wanted to protect its clients' data while the FBI argued that encryption would be dangerous as it hides criminal activities. The case was later ruled in favor of the Apple Company, but the FBI later accessed the iPhone using undisclosed means.

The legal standoff between Apple and FBI had ended, but the experts articulate the issue is likely to come up again. This is because tech companies like Apple are taking measures to guard their clients' photos, important files, business records and messages (Burum and Holmes 9). Guarding of the customer's critical information will hinder the investigation.

The heated debate took weeks where Apple Company resisted the demand by the FBI to give them information. Authorities came up with their way which enabled them to obtain data from an encrypted iPhone which was used by one of the shooters of Bernardino (Stephan 103).

Causes of the Fight

A federal judge at the Department of Justice ordered Apple Company to help the FBI by unlocking iPhone which was encrypted used by Syed Farook who killed more than fourteen people in December along with his wife. The government wanted Apple Company to create software that would help in overriding the feature of ""auto-wipe"" which kicks in after attempting passcode for iPhone for ten times with wrong numbers (Crowley and Johnstone 624). Activation of the function will lead to rendering all data found on the phone to be unreadable permanently.

The Apple software deterred FBI from their attempts at guessing passcode of Farook. The FBI attempted to log into ten times whereby after failed attempts, the contents of the phone self-destructed to discourage rapid attempts (Owsley 4). The company alleged that the program helped in stopping malware or viruses attacks. Authorities demanded the company to create the software to assist them in the investigation.

Apple agreed to create the software ordered by the government but argued vehemently that it would be a bad idea for the company to do so. Tim Cook, the CEO of the company, supposed that implementing the software as ordered by the government will set a precedent for government demands both in the US and other parts of the world (Espino 97). The company also said that hackers could steal the software and use it to harm the business.

The government kept insisting that they were only asking the company to assist in one case. Many prosecutors disagreed with the government saying that they needed to be also in many other cases that included seizing of iPhones. It was not clear if there were any information which was useful stored on the iPhone but James Comey, the director of the FBI, said they were conducting their investigation deeply because they owed victims of San Bernardino and hence they would not have left any stone unturned (Jacobsen 566).

Factors that made the matter turn to be a big deal

The case acted as crystallization for that long-simmering conflict and frustrations between authorities for enforcing laws and tech industry. Apple together with other firms in the tech industry have been increasing usage of encryption steadily and other protective measures that will help in protecting client's data, this led to revelation and hacking attacks about how the government collects data (Owsley 2). The officials for enforcing laws including Comey started complaining that data safeguards and encryptions aided people who are dangerous to hide their criminal activities, and also it interfered with the investigation being done by the government authorities. In the case of San Bernardino, Apple Company drew supports from other tech firms who were leading, civil liberties groups, and experts of computer security. They filed briefs in court with an accusation that the government was going too far because it was forcing the firm to create software that will contribute to the threatening of the security of the company's clients. Top government officials also accused Apple Company of trying to rewrite rules that assisted the government in investigating (Burum and Holmes 9).

Decision of the judge and why Apple Company resisted

Cook said that he would take the case to the Supreme Court of the US and hence the judge did not have to rule. Sheri Pym, the magistrate, later planned the dispute to be heard but the Department of Justice asked for the delay (Owsley 5). The authorities said that an outside party who was not named had invented software that will help to unlock the phone. FBI needed to have a test on it. The government later reported that it had successfully accessed the files of iPhone and hence it no longer required to be assisted by the Apple Company. Because of the above, the Department of Justice asked the magistrate to withdraw the order that was issued (Crowley and Johnstone 630).

Apple Company resisted and fought the order made by the federal court because the firm believed that being forced to write new software will lead to a violation of the rights amended. The company was also of the opinion that breaking into the iPhone might lead to the creation of a way which is permanent that will lead to bypassing of iPhone passwords by spy agencies and other law enforcement officials of other countries (Stephan 103). This became the basis of the reason why the judge ruled in favor of the firm in the case that was heard in February. The judge said that if the iPhone was unlocked, it would be difficult because more straightforward encryption would involve running an operating system which was old (Burum and Holmes 9).

The company also resisted overriding the software because there were more than 70 iPhones which were unable to open during that period (Espino 97). Accepting to create new software would have lead to similar requests by both domestic and foreign governments. Apple Company would have been forced to develop and build spyware internally to help the state in investigating crimes which might make the company lose customers (Crowley and Johnstone 626). Apple Company also said that overriding new software would lead to an internal conflict of interest. This is because the company was trusted by its clients to secure their products, but the same company also wants to undermine that security. This made it hard for the company to create new software as demanded by law enforcement agency (Owsley 3).

The case mattered because the government believed that if the company cooperate in the situation like this, it would be easier for the authorities to prevent other attacks by terrorists against the US (Stephan 104). On the other hand, the supporters of the firm said that if FBI is given chance of overriding software encrypted by Apple Company, it would be made it easier for the authorities to access it in future when investigating.

The executives of the Apple Company said that they defied not because of business choice. They believed that it could have led to an international murkier situation if they had cooperated with the government because, in countries like China, government officials have been demanding great control of security and encryption of technology found in that country. The largest market for Apple is the United States, and China is the second-largest (Owsley 7). Therefore, it would have been hard for the company to accept the encryption in the US and refuse in China as this could have led to affecting the bottom line of the company.

Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and other technology firms supported apple by filing a barrage of court briefs after judge withdrawing the case in February (Stephan 104). The companies said that FBI was only using the case of San Bernardino to demand to override of the software, but in reality, there were more cases which were pending whereby the authorities required Apple Company to open the software. In this case, management of the company was worried terming the demand by the government as the creation of a permanent ""back door"" that would allow other investigators access passcode of the company (Espino 97).

Both FBI and Apple Company claimed victory. Authorities of the US held that they achieve their aim of accessing iPhone while on the other hand, Apple Company articulated that it successfully refused to implement court order that would have harmed its customers. In reality, FBI seemed to have lost some credibility because it kept insisting that Apple Company was only who could help them to unlock the phone, but they used another option of opening the phone (Jacobsen 566).

The opinion of the court was that Apple Company succeeded in making a case which was strong and applied an essential principle of standing up for its clients. On the other hand, other citizens of the US believed that what the company did what not good because it was vital for it to assist the authorities to enforce laws (Espino 97).

Ending of the Matter

The case led the end of the dispute over one iPhone, but it might not be the last because other issues might arise between the company and authorities. Other officials of enforcing laws in the US still want to get into other iPhones. FBI could use the same method in investigating other cases because it has not stated description of how they got into San Bernardino iPhone. It is also unknown who gave the solution that was used by the FBI. It is believed that private experts of forensics devised the method or it could be another company that will start selling the same service to other customers investigating the same case in the future (Owsley 8).

Apple is interested in the method used by the FBI so that it can decide if there was any vulnerability in the iPhone that needed fixing. FBI refused to tell them because it is believed that Apple together with tech firms will start adopting more security measures of protecting their customers if they get the information from the FBI (Jacobsen 566).

The case can lead to more legal confrontations. The Congress of the US has started hearing the issue. Some of the legislators are of the opinion that the court should limit the extent to which government can access tech firms while others other legislators said that it is essential for the tech firms to help the state in the future when dealing with such cases (Crowley and Johnstone 627).


The Apple Company refused to unlock the iPhone that FBI wanted to use in investigating the shooting of San Bernardino because of security issues. The company said that by doing so will undermine clients' security and protection of their data. The law enforcement agencies of the US said that this would help in hiding criminal who was dangerous and hence ordered Apple to unlock the phone. The court later ruled that the company should not unlock the phone. The FBI got assistance from another source where they were able to access the iPhone.

Works Cited

Burum, Sue, and Georgia Holmes. ""Apple v. FBI: Privacy vs. Security?."" NATIONAL SOCIAL SCIENCE: 9.

Crowley, Michael G., and Michael N. Johnstone. ""Protecting corporate intellectual property: Legal and technical approaches."" Business Horizons? 59.6 (2016): 623-633.

Espino, Meredith Mays. ""A Tale of Two Phones: A Discussion of Law Enforcement's Use of the All Writs Act to Enforce Apple to Open Private iPhones."" Rutgers Computer & Tech. LJ? 43 (2017): 97.

Jacobsen, Kristen M. ""Game of Phones, Data Isn't Coming: Modern Mobile Operating System Encryption and Its Chilling Effect on Law Enforcement."" Geo. Wash. L. Rev.? 85 (2017): 566.

Owsley, Brian L. ""Can Apple build a privacy minded iPhone security system so secure that Apple cannot access it?."" Health and Technology (2017): 1-8.

Stephan, Karl. ""Apple Versus the Feds: How a smartphone stymied the FBI."" IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine 6.2 (2017): 103-104.

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The Case of Apple versus the FBI. (2018, Dec 15). Retrieved July 25, 2024 , from

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