Apple/F.B.I. court case dropped

Mar 28, 2016, 7:25 PM EDT
The Apple - FBI Electronic Encryption Fight RGB Triptych v1.1. (Source: Surian Soosay/flickr)
The Apple - FBI Electronic Encryption Fight RGB Triptych v1.1. (Source: Surian Soosay/flickr)

One of the year's most controversial privacy debates has come to a close, somewhat, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation closes its case with Apple. The F.B.I. has said that it has unlocked the iPhone of Syed Farook — one of the San Bernardino shooters linked to ISIS — without the company’s help. The New York Times reports:

“The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple,” the Justice Department said in a filing on Monday.
Yet law enforcement’s ability to unlock an iPhone through an alternative method raises new uncertainties, including questions about the strength of Apple’s security on its devices. The development also creates potential for new conflicts between the government and Apple. Lawyers for Apple have previously said that the company would want to know the method used to crack open the device. The government may make that method classified.
Since a federal magistrate in California in mid-February ordered Apple to assist the FBI in gaining access to Farook's seized iPhone, the legal filings and rhetoric between the world’s most valuable technology company and the federal government's premier law enforcement agency had sharpened into verbal vitriol. The foes were poised to  face off in a court room in Riverside, Calif., last week before the Justice Department abruptly asked for — and was granted — a postponement.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has called the request to override the passcode encryption akin to creating a "backdoor" into the iPhone, and crusaded in a highly coordinated public campaign against the dangers of weakened security in digital devices. This month, Apple said the “Founding Fathers would be appalled” because the government’s order to unlock the iPhone was based on what it said was non-existent authority asserted by the DOJ.
Apple is still in active court cases with the government about assisting with seized phones, in New York, California, Illinois, and Massachusetts. Today’s withdrawal doesn’t make those cases go away. This is a way of pulling out of the conflict without admitting that the government’s legal argument sucked. It is a temporary détente at most.