The FBI is no longer chasing Apple through the courts

One week after postponing its case against Apple, the FBI is no longer seeking to compel the iPhone maker to unlock a phone.

And, just like that, it’s all over. The RBI have access to the iPhone 5C they couldn’t get into before, and they’re no longer chasing Apple through the courts to get access to it. Late last night European time, the US Government vacated its action against Apple:

The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc. mandated by Court’s Order Compelling Apple Inc. to Assist Agents in Search dated February 16, 2016.

Accordingly, the government hereby requests that the Order Compelling Apple Inc. to Assist Agents in Search dated February 16, 2016 be vacated.

Apple: “This case should never have been brought”

Apple has responded to this in a statement:

From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought.

We will continue to help law enforcement with their investigations, as we have done all along, and we will continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated.

Apple believes deeply that people in the United States and around the world deserve data protection, security and privacy. Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk.

This case raised issues which deserve a national conversation about our civil liberties, and our collective security and privacy. Apple remains committed to participating in that discussion.

The case ends, the debate goes on

In one sense, I’m sad to see this happen. At some point the issues around warrants, governments and access to material on encrypted devices is bound to come to law – and where better to have that properly tested than in the US, where the two major mobile operating systems – iOS and Android – are written?

The end of this case merely postpones that eventually clash.

On the other hand, it opens the opportunity – as Apple suggests in its closing paragraph – for people in the US and the rest of the world to have an informed debate about the core issues.

Are we comfortable with there being devices in the world that law enforcement cannot easily access? And, if not, how do we feel about the inevitable compromise to the security of our devices any backdoor or Government-mandated version of an OS would create?

This is not the end of this debate – just the end of the beginning.

Photo by Kārlis Dambrāns and used under a Creative Commons licence.