Once again, the FBI is seeking Apple’s help in unlocking phones in a counterterrorism case. But this time, Apple is technically incapable of providing assistance.
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Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Order from Chaos.
Experts in the technology industry are closely watching the Apple–Qualcomm litigation, in which the phone and computer designer has charged the chip-making firm of anticompetitive behavior and the chip maker has retaliated with multiple worldwide patent lawsuits. But the dispute is worth the attention of national security experts, too. Recent developments set up a potentially revealing showdown in the larger context of the Trump administration’s foreign economic policy.
On Dec. 11, Nick Weaver argued that Apple isn’t doing enough to help law enforcement wiretap iPhone users. That's undoubtedly true, as Apple is building communications systems optimized for privacy and security, not wiretapping. Nick's piece makes some good points but it also makes some assertions that deserve pushback. In particular, Nick wrote:
Apple’s recent acquiescence to the Chinese government, both by removing anti-censorship VPN applications and in Tim Cook’s recent speech in China, is not just disturbing because it shows Apple succumbing to Chinese pressure to remove counter-censorship applications and Skype from the Chinese App Store.
With the Texas church shooting having put encryption back on the front burner, I claim that Apple is becoming the FBI's crazy ex-girlfriend in Silicon Valley—and offer the tapes to prove it.
Unlike most Silicon Valley companies, Apple’s business model is one of "Data Liability." Unlike Google or Facebook which use advertising to extract value from users’ personal information, Apple focuses on selling things that protect a user's data from all unauthorized access — including by Apple. Basically, Apple views user data as a headache, not a monetization opportunity.
Alan Z. Rozenshtein on Digital Communications and Data Storage Companies as "Surveillance Intermediaries"
Alan Z. Rozenshtein, a former contributor to this site who now works at the Department of Justice, is well known to long-time Lawfare readers for his writing on many national security law topics, particularly on issues of national security law in cyber-related topics. Alan has just posted to SSRN a very interesting and important article on the issues raised by government surveillance in an era that today is perhaps most memorably characterized by the legal standoff between Apple and the Department of Justice over unlocking the cell phone of one of the San Bernardino terrrorists.
Author’s note: Despite appearing under my byline, this post actually represents the work of a larger group. The “Keys Under Doormats: Mandating Insecurity” group includes Harold Abelson, Ross Anderson, Steven M.
In episode 129, Alan Cohn and I dive deep on the Government Oversight Committee’s predictably depressing and unpredictably entertaining report on the OPM hack. Cheeky Chinese hackers register their control sites to superhero alter egos.