The DOJ Seeks Loophole To Force Apple iPhone Decryption

Apple and Android fans tend to butt heads and not agree on much when it comes to their preferred operating systems, all except for the area of privacy, I think both camps might be united on this front. It’s no secret that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has not been happy with Apple’s recent update to iOS which encrypts users phones from prying eyes. That encryption keeps government agencies out of those phones as well and Apple is not supplying any form of iPhone decryption to the government. This is forcing the DOJ to find new ways to try and force Apple to decrypt and open a backdoor for government snoops.

The DOJ is now arguing before a federal court that because Apple does not sell the software on its iPhones, they merely license it, the software cannot be protected against federal searches and the DOJ should be allowed access to all iPhones and software supplied by Apple.

“Apple wrote and owns the software that runs the phone, and this software is thwarting the execution of the warrant,” the justice department added. “Apple’s software licensing agreement specifies that iOS 7 software is ‘licensed, not sold’ and that users are merely granted ‘a limited non-exclusive license to use the iOS Software.'”

“Apple cannot reap the legal benefits of licensing its software in this manner and then later disclaim any ownership or obligation to assist law enforcement when that same software plays a critical role in thwarting execution of a search warrant,”

That is a huge loophole if the court sides with the DOJ on this matter and one that everyone should be worried about as most all software is licensed not sold. A ruling in the DOJ’s favor means the federal government would have access to any piece of software that is licensed and the companies who license that software would need to assist in retrieving the desired information, or at least provide the means of retrieval. Apple has yet to make a comment on this latest DOJ move and it will be interesting if Apple’s lawyers can find a way to close that hole.

What do you think of the DOJ’s attempt to break down Apple’s privacy wall? Let us know in the comments below or on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

[button link=”http://www.techtimes.com/articles/99132/20151024/justice-department-wants-court-to-force-apple-to-decrypt-iphones-because-apple-licenses-not-sells-ios.htm” icon=”fa-external-link” side=”left” target=”blank” color=”285b5e” textcolor=”ffffff”]Source: TechTimes[/button]

5 thoughts on “The DOJ Seeks Loophole To Force Apple iPhone Decryption”

  1. They can legally get pretty much everything a user does with their device from alternate sources if they have a warrant, but it’s not as ‘one-stop-shopping’ as accessing the device. Call records and text messages from the carrier, emails from the provider, internet activity from the carrier (or ISP for WiFi activity). In the US, VPN services that are based domestically can be legally compelled to provide user activity if the other sources show that a 3rd party VPN was used. Same for encrypted email — a popular service, Virtru, will respond to a warrant by providing encryption keys and access to messages whereas Swiss-based Proton Mail will not. Virtru TOS clearly lays it out, and also mentions there may be instances where they won’t inform you when this has happened because ‘some warrants legally prohibit them from doing so’.

    For the most part, if the data syncs somewhere, the DOJ can issue a warrant for it. I think Apple is doing a good thing by going out of their way to not be the one that provides access to your stuff, however, they could do a better job of educating users that their stuff can still be accessed.

    Reply
    • Good points, but it is always important to distinguish clearly between content and activity.

      If your actual content syncs, then, yes, it can be seized by law enforcement. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act and Stored Communications Act offer some protection, but its hardly absolute (and they actually cause more problems for civil litigants than for law enforcement). However, if encryption takes place in the device, and it is the encrypted data that is synced to external storage, then law enforcement still needs the keys, which the storage service won’t have.

      Reply
      • Other than an encrypted backup file, that isn’t very much. Your statement is rather vague, without providing specific examples.

        Reply
  2. Alex, do you have link to the full pleadings/moving papers that excerpt is from? I’m a lawyer and I know a little bit about the law of search and seizure, but not enough to comment knowingly before reading the rest of the argument.

    As an “unknowing” comment, I’ll say that excerpt seems to rely on the assumption that, if Apple makes a buck off its software, it has some duty to assist law enforcement. I’ve never heard of that duty, so I’d like to know more about it. As it stands, I can’t see why licensing the software changes Apple’s legal obligations (with respect to assisting law enforcement) from what they would be if Apple simply sold the software. However, if that does matter, one angle Apply could consider would be to sell the encryption component, while continuing to license the rest of iOS.

    Reply

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