Apple's Dispute With the FBI Over Encryption Dates Back to Debut of iOS 8

by

iPhone-PasscodeAhead of Apple's court date with the Federal Bureau of Investigation tomorrow, Bloomberg has taken a dive into the company's history with the FBI to chart the buildup to the heated battle over security and encryption on smartphones. The timeline begins with Apple's introduction of iOS 8 in June of 2014, with Apple subsequently providing the FBI early access so the law enforcement agency "could study how the new system would change evidence-gathering techniques" ahead of the public release of iOS 8 in September of that year.

High-ranking officials at the FBI quickly learned that iOS 8 introduced a new form of encryption into the software that prevented any government agent, or Apple itself, from accessing data stored on the smartphone.

With that significant change in iOS 8, the relationship between Apple and the FBI began to destabilize, but the government didn't have enough backing to support legislation that would help it bypass the encrypted features of the new iOS. But with the San Bernardino terrorist attack last December, the FBI had a foothold to help it take the encryption issue public.

"The reason the relationship went south is the government was expecting some degree of accommodation on the part of the technology companies," said Timothy Edgar, the former director of privacy and civil liberties for the White House National Security Staff from 2009 to 2010. "They were expecting the companies to essentially back down and not go forward with new security measures that would make it impossible for you to access devices or communications. They were caught off guard by basically being told to get lost."

According to one of Bloomberg's sources, the government's first cause for concern with Apple's encryption actually began all the way back in 2010 when the company launched the encrypted video messaging service FaceTime, followed by iMessage in 2011. With the apps making it impossible for the FBI to even peek into criminal activity, the government was rapidly being made aware of "how much of a premium Apple put on privacy."

A few attempts at legislation that would allow the FBI to access encrypted data on smartphones with a court order were made sometime in 2013, but subsequently abandoned following the Edward Snowden controversy that year. According to Timothy Edgar, the former director of privacy and civil liberties for the White House, "there was a real split" in the administration regarding the encryption legislation.

When it became clear that the administration wouldn't support a new law that would help investigators gain access to iPhones and other devices, many FBI agents became frustrated and disappointed. Some recalled that the bureau was pilloried for not connecting the dots to prevent the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to Leo Taddeo, the former special agent in charge of the New York FBI special operations and cyber division.

That sequence of events and the subsequent San Bernardino shooting ultimately led the government to take the issue public and seek a court order for Apple to unlock Syed Farook's iPhone, leading to Tim Cook's non-compliance letter, and the court date with the FBI on March 22. According to Edgar, now a senior fellow at Brown University, "Lawyers think privacy is you can't listen to my conversation without a warrant; technologists think privacy is you can't listen to my conversation, period. It's hard to reconcile those two points of view."

Apple has said that if the courts rule in favor of the FBI in the encryption case, it's ready to take the issue all the way to the Supreme Court. More recently, some Apple engineers have stated that if the company is forced to unlock the San Bernandino iPhone, they may decide to not comply with the ruling.

Check out Bloomberg's full story for more of the history between Apple and the FBI ahead of tomorrow's court date.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

macduke Avatar
63 months ago

I have very little faith left in what the FBI claims, given that our government has been in charge of this debacle:



It's beginning to look like the Keystone Cops ('https://youtu.be/a8jphxpi1ro') are in charge of things.

That episode was my first exposure to that show and I've been hooked ever since. John Oliver is amazing. I'm not even liberal.

I'd also compare them to Reno 911, Super Troopers, etc. It's pathetic. They're just lazy and it's easy if we can be like Batman in that ridiculous scene in The Dark Knight and just hack everyone's phone and see everything happening everywhere at all times.

What drives me crazy is they keep pushing for all of this saying terrorism and so many people believe them. It has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with controlling we the people and asserting absolute rule over us. You wonder why they put complete idiots in control of nuclear weapons? It's like they want something to happen or go missing. That and I sometimes think they're starting to recruit the dumbest of the dumb that will just shut up and follow their heinous orders. I've always supported our troops and have family members who have served in the past and I respect their sacrifice but sometimes I wonder about the current state of things. It's one of the reasons that for years I never thought the government could truly control us because the soldiers wouldn't obey their orders. Now I'm starting to wonder, especially when you see so many police officers who have been blatantly abusing authority. There are still good officers and soldiers out there, but damn, we don't seem to be headed in the right direction with our morals and ethics.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
oneMadRssn Avatar
63 months ago

According to Edgar, now a senior fellow at Brown University, "Lawyers think privacy is you can't listen to my conversation without a warrant; technologists think privacy is you can't listen to my conversation, period. It's hard to reconcile those two points of view."

I don't want to speak for all technologists, but for me, I think privacy is you can't listen to my conversations without (1) a warrant and (2) my ability to challenge and test the validity of that warrant in real time.

The issue with these encryption backdoors is that you might have your phone/computer/whatever spied on remotely without your knowledge. They can do it for years without you knowing. At least when the government searches your physical "persons, houses, papers, and effects," they give you the courtesy of leaving everything a disheveled mess. You then know you've been searched, and you can call a lawyer, challenge the warrant and test its scope. If the warrant turns out to be invalid or that law enforcement exceeded the warrants scope, you can try to stop prosecution or you can get evidence obtained from that violation to be inadmissible in court. There are checks in that system that keep law enforcement (somewhat) honest.

In the digital realm, with the backdoors to encryption proposed by law enforcement, all those checks disappear. They can get a warrant and search your files, and you would have no reason to suspect that the warrant might be invalid or the scope of their snooping exceeds their proper authority until your privacy has been continuously violated for a long period of time.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macduke Avatar
63 months ago
From the article:

At times, Apple and the White House enjoyed good ties, even working together to persuade China not to force phone makers to give authorities a key to unlock a handset's encryption. The administration also didn't give in to FBI lobbying for new legislation that would make it easier to unlock data on mobile devices with warrants.

In late 2014, Apple began working closely with administration officials to lobby China against adopting new anti-encryption policies, according to two people familiar with the effort. Under the proposed rules, any company selling smartphones in the country would have to provide the Chinese government with a key to unlock the handset's encryption.

The lobbying worked and China backed off. But Apple took away the wrong impression. The White House hadn't reached any conclusion when it came to what encryption meant for the needs of U.S. law enforcement agencies, one former official said.

Historically America has been referred to as the "leader of the free world." It's debatable as to whether that is still true, but it's still important to remember that what we decide today will have huge ramifications around the world. We're a leader in software internationally. This could weaken everything and empower nations who are against free speech. Do we really want to let the Chinese, Russians, North Koreans, etc all have inside knowledge to break into all of our devices? This is madness.

Officials from the Commerce Department raised concerns about the proposed legislation's impact on U.S. companies, while the State Department worried about issues such as exposing foreign dissidents. The Defense Department didn't want to create new vulnerabilities for its operations, he said. "There was a real split, and there still is," Edgar said.

I've been saying this all along. What remaining countries will want to do business with us now? After the Snowden revelations, along with Wikileaks and other whistleblowing that has come to light, many countries are already extremely pissed at us. In America, we don't make much any more. But one of the few things we have left is that we develop and export software. This would ruin a huge industry. And as they say, even the Defense Department is worried about having security exploits in their own software. But then what—we make a special uncrackable version for just them? So that the people have no privacy but the government can conduct all the clandestine operations their hearts desire with no way to have any oversight or accountability for them? Some would argue that we're already at that point. This would only take us further to the brink by empowering a government that is out of control and weakening the privacy and freedom of normal people.

Soon after the iOS 8 launch, FBI Director James Comey blasted Apple's position. "Encryption isn’t just a technical feature; it’s a marketing pitch," he said in an Oct. 16, 2014 speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "But it will have very serious consequences for law enforcement and national security agencies at all levels."

It's only a marketing pitch in the sense that it's something that people need and value: Privacy and security. It's like saying that something being edible is just a marketing pitch for food. You can't have one without the other. If it's not edible then it's not food. If it's not encrypted then it's not secure and private. End of story.

With quantum computing on the horizon, good luck cracking "spooky" entangled particle spin/momentum/position/polarization states between matched communication devices. That crap taps into some underlying fabric of the universe somewhere outside of spacetime (or at least I presume as it "breaks" the light speed barrier) and will not be hacked, lol. At least that's how I understand it—let me know if I'm way off base as I'm no quantum scientist. I just remember reading an article a year or two back about it being unhackable—maybe because the communications exist outside of reality? It was crazy and really cool.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HiRez Avatar
63 months ago

With the apps making it impossible for the FBI to even peek into criminal activity, the government was rapidly being made aware of "how much of a premium Apple put on privacy."

I think you meant any activity. Words matter. Phrasing things like this is part of public perception problem that gives the FBI leverage on this issue.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
soupcan Avatar
63 months ago
When you become frustrated and want to cover up your ****-ups go public with a mass-shooting case and use the words "terrorist" and "muslims" in the same sentence in order for the uneducated majority to back you up.

/s
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Sasparilla Avatar
63 months ago
The Administration (FBI / Justice Department) was waiting for a terrorist incident they could use to play on the fears of the public (very cynical on the government part) to do this:

https://theintercept.com/2015/09/16/top-intel-lawyer-pushing-anti-encryption-legislation-says-terror-attack-help/

The fact that this is one of the shooters work phones, which the shooters didn't destroy (they destroyed their personal phones and computer) really dings the FBI need to do this PR for a precedent setting case, but the U.S. media has assisted by leaving that and other relevant detail(s) out of their coverage.

As I mentioned before, this push by the world governments to have access to all smartphones (to what is, in essence, the closest thing to a storage locker for the inside of our heads that exists) will not go away and will probably only get stronger. Add to that our secret FISA courts / orders, the occasional terrorist incidents (to give the total surveillance folks the public mood they need) and its not a good long term thing to expect to win against with a closed source model (that can could have back doors inserted without the public knowing whatever the cause).

Apple leadership needs to really reflect on this and come up with a strategy that can work against these forces long term - IMHO open sourcing (not free, but open source) their OS's, compiler, apps and BIOS / Firmware images (Lenovo ('https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20150812/11395231925/lenovo-busted-stealthily-installing-crapware-via-bios-fresh-windows-installs.shtml') has shown why) is the only way to fight this long term so they can be publicly audited (and discourage govts, the U.S. most importantly, from doing irresponsible / secret things by having the sunshine present). Massive work, but Apple sales would then go through the roof.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iphone 5s black slate

Images of Unreleased iPhone 5s in Black and Slate Shared Online

Sunday January 17, 2021 9:47 am PST by
Twitter user @DongleBookPro has today shared images of a prototype iPhone 5s in an unreleased Black and Slate color. The iPhone 5s was launched in September 2013. The device featured Touch ID, a 64-bit processor, and a True Tone LED flash for the first time. Other new features included a five-element lens with an f/2.2 aperture, a 15 percent larger camera sensor, Burst Mode, and Slo-Mo...
iP12 charge airpods feature 2

Hidden iPhone 12 Hardware Feature Could Still be Unlocked

Thursday January 14, 2021 2:51 am PST by
All iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models purportedly have a hidden reverse wireless charging feature, according to an FCC filing. The feature has not yet been activated, but could yet be unlocked for an upcoming Apple accessory. The FCC filing suggests that iPhone 12 models contain the hardware for Wireless Power Transfer (WPT) to accessories: In addition to being able to be charged by a...
google maps detailed street level e1611052089473

Google Maps Gains Enhanced Street-Level Detail in Four Major Cities

Tuesday January 19, 2021 2:34 am PST by
Google Maps has quietly been updated to include significantly more detailed street-level information in a handful of key cities around the world. Upon zooming in, Google's maps for Central London, Tokyo, San Francisco, and New York now benefit from shapes and widths that match the scale of roads more accurately. Meanwhile, enhanced graphical representations of sidewalks, crosswalks,...
macbook pro flexgate

Apple Extends 13-Inch MacBook Pro Backlight Repair Program

Sunday January 17, 2021 10:31 am PST by
Apple this week extended its worldwide 13-inch MacBook Pro Display Backlight Service Program, authorizing coverage for eligible notebooks for up to five years after the original purchase date or up to three years after the start date of the program, whichever is longer. The previous cutoff was four years after the original purchase date. Apple launched the program on May 21, 2019 after...
lg wing

LG Considering Exit From Smartphone Business, Halts LCD Production for iPhone

Wednesday January 20, 2021 5:38 am PST by
LG is considering exiting the smartphone business entirely amid declining shipments and accrued losses of $4.5 billion over the past five years (via The Korea Herald). LG CEO Kwon Bong-Seok cautioned staff earlier today that the company is re-evaluating its presence in the smartphone industry: Since the competition in the global market for mobile devices is getting fiercer, it is about...
airpods max sim ejector

AirPods Max Headband Removable With Just a SIM Ejector Tool, Hinting at Interchangeable Headbands

Tuesday January 19, 2021 8:25 am PST by
It is possible to remove the headband of AirPods Max with just a standard SIM card ejector tool, hinting at the possibility of interchanging headbands to achieve a different colorway. Image via Prelook In December, MacRumors revealed the large variety of AirPods Max ear cushion color combinations when it became clear that they were magnetically attatched and available for sale separately....
macbook pro screensaver table

Some M1 Macs Affected By Fast User Switching Screensaver Bug

Monday January 18, 2021 1:57 am PST by
A growing number of user reports online suggest some of Apple's M1 Mac models are susceptible to a Fast User Switching bug that spontaneously activates the screensaver and leaves the user unable to dismiss it. In macOS Big Sur, Fast User Switching allows users to quickly switch between user accounts without having to completely log out. Based on posts in the MacRumors forums, Apple...
Top Stories 43 Feature

Top Stories: MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Pro, and iPhone Rumors, Best of CES 2021

Saturday January 16, 2021 6:00 am PST by
This week was sure a busy one in the Apple world, with a flurry of announcements out of CES early in the week followed by a rash of Mac- and iPhone-related rumors later in the week. The new rumors this week included details on updated MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac Pro models, as well as a few other tidbits, so make sure to read on below to get caught up! Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models to...
shot on iphone 12 apple

Apple Highlights Photos Shot by iPhone 12 Users: Portraits, Cityscapes, and More

Tuesday January 19, 2021 6:05 am PST by
Apple today shared a gallery of photos shot by customers using the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max, with scenes including cityscapes, landscapes, portraits of people, and more at day and night. Shot on iPhone 12 Pro Max by "NKCHU" in China (top) and shot on iPhone 12 Pro Max by Rohit Vohra in India (bottom) iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 models have a dual camera ...
Apple and Hyundai feature

Apple Car Production Again Linked to Kia Motor's US Plant in Georgia

Tuesday January 19, 2021 4:19 am PST by
Hyundai intends to transition the company's Apple Car involvement to its Kia brand as part of an internal arrangement that could see production move to the U.S., according to a new report today. On Sunday, Korea IT News reported that Apple and Hyundai are seeking a partnership agreement for the upcoming Apple Car by March, and that the electric vehicles could be made at a Georgia factory...