Friday, February 19, 2016

"There is a lot of misinformation flying around about the order issued to Apple with respect to the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone. If you’re interested in doing a bit of in depth reading, I recommend reading the motion filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. For a shorter read, check out Orin Kerr.

Let me make some brief points.

First, the government is not asking Apple to break the phone’s encryption. They are seeking to have Apple turn off an auto-erase function, which (when turned on) automatically erases all the data on an iPhone if there are ten consecutive incorrect attempts to enter the four-digit passcode. They are seeking to have Apple allow the passcodes to be entered electronically — so nobody has to manually type in every possible four-digit combination. And they are seeking to have Apple disable a feature that introduces delays of increasing length as incorrect guesses at the passcode are made.

Second, this specific case does not implicate anyone’s right to privacy. The phone in question was a work phone issued to Syed Farook with the explicit understanding that he had no privacy in its contents. Moreover, Farook’s employer, which owns the phone, has consented to the search. Even if it were his private phone, a magistrate has issued a warrant based on probable cause. You can claim that this leads to a slippery slope, but government already has the ability to get warrants to look at phones, phone records, search your house, and so forth. Unless you are so paranoid that you want to disable the ability of law enforcement to do its everyday job — and increasingly many people seemingly are — then this is no big deal.

Third, as described by the government, the software in question would have a unique identifier so that it would only work with this single device."

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