Apple to Analyze Recovered iPhone of Florida Teens Lost at Sea

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Apple has agreed to examine a recovered iPhone at the center of a dispute between the families of two Florida teens who went missing during a fishing trip last summer (via ABC News).

In July 2015, 14-year-old Austin Stephanos and his friend and neighbor Perry Cohen, also 14, launched a single-engine vessel on a fishing expedition off the coast of Palm Beach County, Florida. The boys never returned, and despite a Coast Guard-led eight-day search of the Atlantic covering 50,000 nautical miles, their bodies were never found.

recovered_iphone_austin_stephanos

The recovered iPhone that belonged to Austin Stephanos (Image: Blu Stephanos)

Last month, their abandoned boat was discovered by a Norwegian crew 100 miles off the coast of Bermuda, along with a locked box inside of which was Stephanos' heavily water-damaged and inoperable iPhone 6.

Cohen had borrowed Stephanos' phone to communicate with his family the day they disappeared, and the Cohens wanted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to treat the phone as evidence in an open missing persons case, but the agency insisted on returning the phone to Stephanos' family, according to a local television report.

Cohen's mother, Pamela Cohen, sued Stephanos' family to have the iPhone returned to the state, to allow her access to its contents, and if necessary, have the phone turned over to law enforcement as evidence in a possible criminal investigation.

In the emergency hearing yesterday, Cohen's attorney pointed to an accident investigation report that suggested foul play in the boys' disappearance. According to the court file, Cohen's stepfather, Nick Korniloff, contacted the FBI in the belief that the boys had been abducted, but no official criminal investigation was undertaken.

Both families have now consented to turn over the phone to Apple, which "has already agreed to take in the phone" and analyze it for answers, according to a lawyer representing the Stephanos family. It will be sent to Cupertino via FedEx for forensic examination in-house. Apple has not commented on the lawyer's claim, although the company has previously acknowledged that it was asked to look at the device.

It's unclear whether the iPhone was passcode-protected when it was in working order, nor is it known what methods Apple will employ in its attempts to recover data from such a damaged device, therefore comparisons between this case and Apple's dispute with the FBI over its refusal to unlock the San Bernardino shooter's phone are premature. In the event that anything is found that sheds light on the circumstances of the boys' disappearance, the data will be given to a judge, who will consider if it is evidence and whether it may be shared with the families.

The phone "potentially holds the key to answer a question that a mother desperately needs answered," the Cohens' lawyer told the judge presiding over the hearing. "And let's be clear, your honor, the boys are not declared dead."

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

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56 months ago
I hope for the parents sake they can find out what happened.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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56 months ago

These are all signs of a creeping invasion of privacy - and Apple is complicit, while pretending to be against it.

Please get over yourself. The kid was a minor. His parents, as was their right, 100% agreed to allow Apple complete access to the iPhone to possibly shed light on what happened to their missing and presumed dead son. How is this a creeping invasion of privacy issue again?
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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56 months ago

My god why is it that when someone is lost it absolutely HAS to be a terrorist abduction... The guys probably just fell off the boat and sank somewhere.

But how did 2 of them fall in the sea? I am a keen boater (as my name gives away), I worked at a major shipping company and have helped the RNLI (British Lifeboats). Its hard to see how both of them disappeared, also how were they so far out?
Its a single engine, its design for near shore use, not the Atlantic (by crossing). I have seen how wild the sea is and how calm it is one moment, then how wild it is. I also know how remote you can be and how vunreble you are to the elements, even in a port. Once you are around a head, you are just on your own, and thats its. if someone comes up to you and wants to be malicious, your in deep poop...

They probobly want to see the call logs (did they try to call for help?), the location of the phone (as if there been no internet connection, it stores until data and just to see general information about what happened.

Also if anyone here does boating, Please dont take your phone out at sea, you'll be amazed but even 200 meters away from cliffs you may not have any signal. Buy a waterproof VFH. And life-jackets.
Sadly there is a similar story with some Fishermen from where I am from with an RNLI, coastguards and Royal Navy search.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
56 months ago

My god why is it that when someone is lost it absolutely HAS to be a terrorist abduction... The guys probably just fell off the boat and sank somewhere.

My god why is it that when I read an article on MacRumors I absolutely HAVE to read comments from armchair warriors who think they know something about the article. Yet that warrior didn't even read the article.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
56 months ago
My god why is it that when someone is lost it absolutely HAS to be a terrorist abduction... The guys probably just fell off the boat and sank somewhere.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
56 months ago

My god why is it that when someone is lost it absolutely HAS to be a terrorist abduction... The guys probably just fell off the boat and sank somewhere.

That's what the terrorists want you to think.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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