Apple moves to shift battle over unlocking iPhone to Capitol Hill - The New York Times 20160222

Apple moves to shift battle over unlocking iPhone to Capitol Hill - The New York Times 20160222

Apple said on Monday that it wanted to expand its iPhone battle with the United States government beyond a courtroom — where it is currently being fought — to a hearing room on Capitol Hill.

The announcement came after the House Energy and Commerce Committee invited the company’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, and the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to testify at a hearing on privacy and national security “to explain to Congress and the American people the issues at play and how they plan to move forward.”

The standoff centers on a court order last week calling on Apple to weaken the security functions on an iPhone belonging to one of the gunmen in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., in December, so that F.B.I. investigators could access its contents. Apple has refused to comply, setting off a heated exchange of public statements and court filings.

The best way forward, the company said, would be for the government to, “as some in Congress have proposed, form a commission or other panel of experts on intelligence, technology and civil liberties to discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy and personal freedoms.”

Apple said that it would “gladly participate in such an effort.”

If the Justice Department does not withdraw its demands, Apple has until Friday to file a formal brief opposing the order, which was issued on Tuesday by Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Apple’s note, which was intended to answer the most frequently asked questions about the dispute, also reiterated that law enforcement officials, frustrated by their inability to open locked iPhones, were closely watching the case.

“Law enforcement agents around the country have already said they have hundreds of iPhones they want Apple to unlock if the F.B.I. wins this case,” Apple said.

In an interview with Charlie Rose, the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., was asked, “If there is access to this phone, you want access to all those phones that you think are crucial in a criminal proceeding?”

Mr. Vance responded: “Absolutely right.”

The New York City police commissioner, William J. Bratton, and Mr. Vance criticized Apple after it refused to comply with the court order and said that they currently possessed 175 iPhones that they could not unlock.

The fight between Apple and law enforcement is an important moment in the growing tension between technology companies that have access to reams of private customer data and the government, which has long sought greater access to that information. Apple says that customer data must remain accessible only to customers in order to protect their civil liberties. Law enforcement officials like Mr. Comey say that increasingly robust encryption technology hinders their ability to fight criminals.

After the judge ordered Apple on Tuesday to create a tool that would weaken security measures on a work phone issued to Syed Farook, one of the gunmen in the December attack that left 14 dead, Mr. Cook posted a personally signed letter to customers early Wednesday morning in which he said he opposed the order as an intrusion into customers’ privacy. The Justice Department shot back on Friday with a sharply worded, 25-page motion demanding that Apple cooperate with the order, writing that the company’s refusal “appears to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy.”

On Sunday, Mr. Comey released a statement to defend why the agency needed to break into the iPhone, saying the order “isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message.”

“It is about the victims and justice,” he said.

In an internal email sent to Apple employees on Monday, Mr. Cook wrote that the company’s customer data was “under siege” and that “it does not feel right to be on the opposite side of the government in a case centering on the freedoms and liberties that government is meant to protect.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *