Apple is saying its newer iPhones are impossible to unlock without the user’s passcode because of their strengthened encryption tools. This could be counted as a win for those that oppose ‘encryption back doors’ and the sharing of user data with governments; however, Apple could still potentially hack into older phones.
This has all come to light because the US Justice Department requested that Apple unlocks an iPhone seized during an investigation. Apple responded that it’s impossible in devices running iOS8 or higher – when they beefed up their encryption. However, the phone in question is older so could in theory be accessed, but Apple’s saying it’s also unethical.
Apple’s lawyers said: “Forcing Apple to extract data in this case, absent clear legal authority to do so, could threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook also said at a conference that Apple doesn’t give intelligence agencies access to its data on locked devices: “We think encryption is a must in today’s world. No-one should have to decide between privacy or security. We should be smart enough to do both.”
This is another step in an ongoing debate about how much access law enforcement and intelligence agencies should have to data – on the one hand the government and agencies say it’d be a huge help in countering terrorism and crime and, on the other, privacy groups and most of the general public are saying it’s kinda definitely against our right to privacy.
It’s a particularly hot topic at the moment with the Safe Harbour situation, and although that’s aimed at data hosted in the US, Theresa May’s Snoopers Charter and Cameron’s comments on encryption back doors increasingly highlight the need for safeguards against the misuse of data and understanding the ramifications of messing with encryption.
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