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FBI Cracks Farook's iPhone Without Apple's Help

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on March 29, 2016 3:59 PM

Heated debate has raged as to whether or not Apple should, or even could, assist the U.S. government in its quest to pry open his cell phone. After long resisting a court order, it looks like both Apple and the FBI won in the announcement that the FBI had broken into Syed Farook's phone. But if you really think about, the FBI won more.

Go Back and Refresh

By now, even the most disinterested of readers is familiar with the Apple iPhone debate that has been dominating headlines. In ultra-brief terms, the FBI wanted to get into Syed Farook's iPhone, and procured a court order against Apple to assist in accessing the data within by "removing the snarling guard-dog" of Apple's security feature that deletes the phone's data after ten unsuccessful attempts to unlock it.

All Writs What?

Tim Cook was stalwart in his position and likened cooperation with "cancer." His words were meant to be incendiary. Cook had reiterated in print that Apple's highest priority was customer privacy, echoing what he'd said in the past. But we'd previously intimated that Apple's position was somewhat suspect in that it couldn't possibly be as anti-government-intrusion in its business ethic if it had willingly cooperated with China.

Still, much legal wrangling took place. One focal point of the drama revolved around just how much reach the famed All Writs Act bestowed upon the government to coerce non-government actors to participate in what is supposed to be the government's job. Every little legal angle was poked, prodded, and tried.

It looks like we're not going to have that question answered here, now that the FBI said, "Wait, no help needed." It was a short and pithy announcement, almost without any ceremony at all.

Who's Really Winning Here?

Get ready for both sides to start claiming victory. At the very least, no one will admit a loss. Apple and its sometimes overly zealous fans will declare that the company stood its ground and didn't bend to the will of the government. The FBI will claim that its success will ensure greater safety and will not lead to an increased intrusion into individual liberties or privacy.

But the battle has exposed weaknesses. The alacrity with which the FBI was apparently able to hack into Farook's phone gives currency to the theory that this song and dance was all bid to crack Apple itself into setting legal precedent. Apple is wounded because it's just been aired to the public that iPhones can be hacked without erasing the data inside. But the biggest losers? All of us who had deluded ourselves into thinking that our phones were impregnable vaults incapable of revealing our private lives.

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