fbi logoThe FBI doesn't have to identify the company it contracted to unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in the 2015 California terror attack that killed 14 people, a federal judge ruled on Saturday (via Politico).

Three news organizations – USA Today, Associated Press, and Vice Mediasued the FBI last year under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to try to force the agency to reveal the name of the company and the amount it was paid to unlock the device.

In the original complaint, the news organizations argued that the public had a right to know how the government spent taxpayer funds in the case. They also claimed the existence of a flaw in the iPhone could be a danger to the public. However, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled this weekend that the information is exempt from mandatory disclosure under the government transparency law.

In her ruling, released Saturday night, Chutkan said the identity of the firm that managed to unlock the iPhone and the price it was paid to do so are classified national security secrets and constitute intelligence sources or methods that can also be withheld on that basis. She also ruled that the amount paid for the hack reflects a confidential law enforcement technique or procedure that is exempt from disclosure under FOIA.

A battle between Apple and the FBI began in early 2016 when Apple refused to help the government unlock shooter Syed Farook's iPhone 5c under the belief that it could set a bad precedent for security and privacy. The FBI didn't know what was on the device at the time, but believed that any information gathered could potentially help move the case of the San Bernardino attack forward in meaningful ways.

To break into Farook's iPhone 5c, the FBI later employed the help of "professional hackers" and reportedly paid upwards of $1.3 million for a tool exploiting a security vulnerability, a figure arrived at based on comments made by then-FBI director James Comey. The agency said it was not able to share with Apple the hacking methods used because it did not own the rights to the relevant technical details regarding the purchased technique.

The FBI has said the method used to break into the iPhone 5c does not work on the iPhone 5s and later, but it can be used to access iPhone 5c devices running iOS 9. It later revealed after the hack that nothing on the phone relevant to the investigation was found.

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

supercoolmanchu Avatar
46 months ago
NSA listens in on all mobile comms... so FBI flushes 1.3 million taxpayer bucks for a hack that only works in one type of phone.

So for for those playing along at home, Federal government operates both illegally and totally stupidly. But sure let’s give them more authority over [insert partisan topic]. :rolleyes:
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nwcs Avatar
46 months ago
It’s probably already patched anyway

The FBI messed up by going wide with this and making a big spectacle. They should have just kept it within the intelligence community/private contractors rather than trying to compel Apple of all companies to “unlock” it. But I guess this is the nature of security theater.
That wasn’t their end game. Their end game with Apple was to set a legal precedent to be used later. If they forced Apple to capitulate it would have led to weaker security plus a case law basis to strong arm any company in a similar manner. Doesn’t matter what your political persuasion: governments always want to know what you’re doing and when.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
modemthug Avatar
46 months ago
It’s probably already patched anyway

The FBI messed up by going wide with this and making a big spectacle. They should have just kept it within the intelligence community/private contractors rather than trying to compel Apple of all companies to “unlock” it. But I guess this is the nature of security theater.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dannyyankou Avatar
46 months ago
Well I say bring it to the Supreme Court
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JungeQuex Avatar
46 months ago
Land of the free, he he he....
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
miniyou64 Avatar
46 months ago
But old fashioned police didn’t have to deal with terror cells organised over the internet.
The fact they didn’t get any information is really neither here nor there.
So we should all give up our freedoms to pretend to feel safe from a government that cares only about control and justifying its own existence but not one bit about protecting anyone at all?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

flat imac 3d 3 teal

Reliable Leaker Hints Redesigned Colorful iMac to Debut at 'Spring Loaded' Event

Saturday April 17, 2021 4:43 am PDT by
Reliable leaker known as l0vetodream has hinted that Apple may debut its rumored redesigned and colorful iMac at its "Spring Loaded" event on Tuesday, April 20. In a tweet, the leaker posted an image of Apple's logo used for marketing the upcoming event and an image of the retro rainbow Apple logo alongside the colorful lineup of G3 iMacs. Apple leaker Jon Prosser previously reported that...
third gen Apple pencil leaked video

Video of Alleged Third-Generation Apple Pencil Leaks Ahead of Apple Event

Friday April 16, 2021 6:13 am PDT by
A video purporting to be of the third-generation Apple Pencil has today been shared online, showing a glossy finish that mirrors previous leaks. New ✏️ ready to 🚢 #AppleEvent @TommyBo50387266 pic.twitter.com/s4RCDwDi5M— 漢尼斯·拉斯納 🇨🇳 (@ileakeer) April 16, 2021 The brief video from Twitter account @ileakeer, spotted by 9to5Mac, shows an Apple Pencil with a glossy finish much like the...
important battery message iphone 11

Some iPhone 11 Users Seeing Increased Battery Health Percentages After iOS 14.5 Recalibration Process

Friday April 16, 2021 6:32 am PDT by
In the sixth beta of iOS 14.5, Apple introduced a recalibration process for the battery health reporting system on the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max to address inaccurate battery health estimates for some users. Apple said this process might take a few weeks to be completed, and now that two weeks have passed since the sixth beta of iOS 14.5 was released, some users are...
apple event particularly innovative article

Gurman: Apple's 'Spring Loaded' Event Won't Feature Anything 'Particularly Innovative'

Thursday April 15, 2021 1:30 am PDT by
Bloomberg's highly-respected Mark Gurman says that he expects nothing "particularly innovative" or "extraordinary" to launch at Apple's "Spring Loaded" event next week, Tuesday, April 20. Gurman made the remarks during an interview for Bloomberg Technology, in which he reaffirmed that Apple will launch a new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, with the higher-end model featuring a brand new...
Top Stories 57 Feature

Top Stories: Apple Event Next Tuesday, Mini-LED iPad Pro, iPhone Rumors

Saturday April 17, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
It feels like we've been waiting forever for new Apple products, but the wait is almost over as Apple has announced a media event for next Tuesday, so make sure to tune into MacRumors for full coverage of everything Apple announces. While that was the big news this week, we also got some new details on Apple's iPhone plans for 2022 and 2023 courtesy of analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, and we also saw...
apple event spring loaded

Apple's 'Spring Loaded' Event Officially Announced for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Following an overnight leak by Siri, Apple today officially announced that it will be holding a special "Spring Loaded" event on Tuesday, April 20 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. As with all of Apple's 2020 events, the April 2021 event will be a digital-only gathering with no members of the media invited to attend in...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With Anker's MagSafe-Compatible Battery Pack

Thursday April 15, 2021 9:39 am PDT by
Anker, a company known for its range of accessories designed for Apple products, recently came out with one of the first MagSafe-compatible battery packs, so we thought we'd check it out to see how it compares to a standard battery pack. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design wise, Anker's power bank looks like a typical battery pack, but it has magnets built in...
iphone 13 pro max cads eap

iPhone 13 Series CAD Leaks Reveal Larger Camera Dimensions

Friday April 16, 2021 1:53 am PDT by
Information and alleged CADs of the upcoming iPhone 13 series, shared in a video from EverythingApplePro, indicates that Apple plans to make this year's iPhone camera module significantly bigger, likely to make way for larger sensors and sensor-shift stabilization. According to the CADs shared in the video, the iPhone 13 mini, Pro, and Pro Max camera module will all be a "perfect square."...
jaguar car homekit

User Adds Car to HomeKit for In-App Controls and Automations, Showing Future Potential

Thursday April 15, 2021 6:17 am PDT by
Blogger Siobhán Ellis has successfully integrated their electric car into their Apple HomeKit setup, adding in-app toggles for door locking, climate control, and more. The setup, which is outlined in detail on the blog Practical HomeKit, allows multiple elements of a Jaguar I-Pace electric vehicle to be monitored, controlled, and automated using the Home app. Using a HomeBridge plugin for ...
siir apple event april 20

Siri Reveals Apple Event Planned for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 12:04 am PDT by
Siri has apparently prematurely revealed that Apple plans to hold an event on Tuesday, April 20, where the company is expected to reveal brand new iPad Pro models and possibly its long-awaited AirTags trackers. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Upon being asked "When is the next Apple Event," Siri is currently responding with, "The special event is on Tuesday, April...