Lavabit, the secure email company that shut down in 2013 rather than hand over its encryption key to the U.S. government, has joined the growing list of companies filing amicus briefs on Apple’s behalf as it battles the FBI in court, TechCrunch reports. In the brief, Lavabit details the “extraordinary assistance” the FBI demanded three years ago, after public disclosures by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden led authorities to the company’s email service. “In the same vein, the government now seeks extraordinary assistance from Apple,” Lavabit wrote, arguing that “the government’s extraordinary request eviscerates the purpose of the All Writs Act, and unnecessarily compromises the proprietary intellectual property of a private company that has not been implicated, in any way, with the crime under investigation.”
The National Assembly of France has voted in favor of a bill that would penalize smartphone makers such as Apple who refuse to cooperate with terrorism inquiries, The Guardian reports. The move, which goes against the wishes of the French government, took the form of an amendment to a penal reform bill related to the end of the state of emergency which has been in place in France since last fall’s Paris terrorist attacks. The state of emergency is expected to be lifted in May. The amendment stipulates a private company that refuses to hand over encrypted data to any investigating authority could face a €350,000 fine ($385,000), and up five years in jail for those deemed liable. The French government has shown a reluctance to take on large phone companies in this manner, leading the report to speculate whether the amendment will actually make it through the remaining and lengthy parliamentary process, which would include a vote and possible amendment by the French Senate, possible constitutional review, and additional commissions.
In response to Apple’s reluctance to aid U.S. authorities in cracking iPhone encryption, one French politician is proposing a 1 million euro fine for every iPhone Apple refuses to unlock in France, Le Parisien reports. French Socialist MP Yann Galut noted eight instances where phones tied to terrorist attacks have been inaccessible to police, suggesting that stiff fines might compel companies like Apple and Google to cooperate with authorities. “Only money will force these extremely powerful companies like Apple and Google to comply,” he said.
When pressed during testimony before Congress, FBI Director James Comey was forced to admit that his agency would use the precedent from a win in the San Bernardino iPhone case to compel Apple to unlock more phones (via Apple Insider). After weeks spent trying to reassure the public that the government’s request for Apple to break into a terrorist’s iPhone would result in one-time access used only in this particular instance, Comey told members of the House Judiciary Committee, “If the All Writs Act is available to us, and relief under the All Writs Act fits the powers of the statute, of course” his agency would apply the precedent to other cases involving iPhones. The admission underscored Apple’s emphasis on the far-reaching nature of the case, given that sources have said the Department of Justice already has at least a dozen iPhones it wants unlocked. In a ruling handed down Monday, a federal judge sided with Apple in a similar case, arguing that the government doesn’t have the legal authority to use the All Writs Act to gain access to encrypted iPhones.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee may file a “friend of the court” brief asking that Congress be allowed to decide Apple’s encryption dispute with the U.S. government, Reuters reports. Five sources confirmed the possibility, although they were quick to caution that no final agreement had been reached. The move would be an unusual intervention by Congress in a legal proceeding and needs to be filed by Thursday’s court deadline for consideration. Sources said the filing would argue that the Feb. 16 federal court order for Apple to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone 5c threatens the constitutional separation of powers, but the committee won’t file anything until today’s congressional testimony from Apple’s general counsel Bruce Sewell and FBI Director James Comey is concluded. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and several other large technology firms are expected to file briefs on Apple’s behalf.
A federal judge has ruled the government cannot use the All Writs Act to force Apple to unlock an iPhone, a judgement that could have far-reaching implications in Apple’s ongoing legal battle with the FBI, Reuters reports. While all eyes are on Apple’s public debate with the FBI over whether or not the company should unlock an iPhone used by the San Bernardino terrorists, a similar case has been working its way through appeals courts. Last October the Department of Justice dismissed Apple’s argument against helping the government break into the iPhone of a suspected drug dealer, saying the company’s operating system is “licensed, not sold” to users. But U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein disagreed with the DOJ’s assessment, stating that he does not have the legal authority to order Apple to disable the phone’s security measures.
Apple vice president and general counsel Bruce Sewell will testify before Congress tomorrow about the company’s stance on helping the FBI create a back door to access an iPhone linked to the San Bernardino terrorists. Sewell’s prepared remarks were released ahead of tomorrow’s testimony, and while they simply reiterate Apple’s stated position that creating a means to break iPhone encryption is dangerous, this will mark the first time the issue has been aired in testimony before Congress. Apple has stated that it wants Congress rather than the courts to decide the issue. FBI Director James Comey, New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., and Worcester Polytechnic Institute professor Susan Landau are also scheduled to speak to Congress tomorrow on the legal questions surrounding the FBI’s request. [via Vice’s Motherboard]
A recent court filing by Lisa Olle, manager of Apple’s Global Privacy & Law Enforcement Compliance Team, details Apple’s efforts to aid authorities investigating the San Bernardino terrorist attack, Apple Insider reports. The document shows that Apple provided same-day turnarounds on no fewer than three FBI requests, delivering all the information it had on file related to several names and user accounts as early as Dec. 5, three days after the attacks. Olle appears to be part of the team responsible for providing the FBI with alternatives to extracting all available data about the attackers and claims the company made every effort to cooperate. “Throughout the investigation, I and other Apple representatives, including a senior engineer, continually made ourselves available to the government, on a 24/7 basis, participating in teleconferences, providing technical assistance, answering questions from the FBI, and suggesting potential alternatives for the government to attempt to obtain data from the Subject Device,” Olle stated in the declaration.
Leaked photos said to show the inner workings of Apple’s new ‘iPhone SE’ seem to confirm earlier rumors that the new phone will lack 3D Touch capabilities, French website NowhereElse reports. The images, obtained from an anonymous source, show that the metal plate over the internal components of the new phone lacks spaces for both the haptic engine and screen connections associated with 3D Touch. As previously reported, the new phone is expected to feature some features of the iPhone 6 family in a shell more akin to the iPhone 5s.
Following a report in January that indicated Apple’s new iPhone with a 4” display would be dubbed the “iPhone 5se,” 9to5Mac is now claiming that Apple may in fact simply designate the newer spiritual successor to the iPhone 5s as merely the “iPhone SE,” dropping the numeric designation altogether. Presumably, Apple would be highlighting the “Special Edition” meaning of the designation, and perhaps wants to avoid bringing the smaller, 4”-screened model into the same family as current iPhones, while minimizing the device’s roots — despite reports that it will look nearly the same as the iPhone 5s. The iPhone SE is still expected to retain the same design, features, and price points as previously reported; it’s unclear whether this latest information is a matter of Apple having not finalized the naming, or if the previous information was inaccurate.
New supposed schematics of the upcoming iPhone 5se show the phone will be based on the design of the iPhone 5s, rather than adopting a new design closer to the iPhone 6 series, 9to5Mac reports. Sources suggest that the new device will basically sport the same exterior design as the iPhone 5s, with significantly upgraded internal hardware. This would seem to make sense considering Apple’s choice of iPhone 5 family naming for the new device, which many earlier rumors speculated was going to be dubbed “iPhone 6c.” A case maker source revealed to 9to5Mac that the device “looks nearly like a 5s” with dimensions that are indistinguishable from the early model. The schematics also seem to indicate that Apple has chosen to relocate the sleep/wake/power button to the side of the casing, similar to the iPhone 6 models. The edges of the device and front glass panel are also expected to be slightly curved at the edges, although reportedly not to the extent of curvature on the iPhone 6 models.
Cook speaks out against FBI iPhone request as Apple pursues stronger security for future iOS updates
In last night’s interview with ABC News anchor David Muir, Apple CEO Tim Cook outlined the company’s objections to the U.S. government’s request that Apple build a new version of iOS to help the FBI unlock the iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter. Cook likened the the idea of creating an entirely new build of its operating system to the “software equivalent of cancer,” stating that Apple would essentially have to write a new piece of software that would be “bad news to write” and that it believes would be a “very dangerous operating system” due to what it would be capable of doing, as well as the precedent that it would set. As Cook went on to explain, acceding to such a request could open the door to other government requests for more extensive custom operating system modifications to enable other types of surveillance, putting customers at risk and “trampling” civil liberties.
“If a court can ask us to write this piece of software, think about what else they could ask us to write—maybe it’s an operating system for surveillance, maybe the ability for the law enforcement to turn on the camera ... I don’t know where this stops. But I do know that this is not what should be happening in this country.”
Cook told ABC News that Apple has cooperated with the FBI in every other way, but drew the line at building a customized piece of software that would create a backdoor that would compromise the iPhone’s security design. As Cook explained, “We gave everything that we had” to the FBI, and at this point neither Apple nor the FBI even knows if there is any other information on the iPhone in question, but that to do what the FBI is now asking would “expose hundreds of millions of people to issues.” The issue is not merely about privacy, but also about the public’s safety and protecting Apple’s customers, Cook said.
Apple is gearing up to take its legal fight with the FBI over iPhone encryption all the way to the Supreme Court, Bloomberg reports. The company is arguing that the FBI is overstepping its authority by using the All Writs Act to compel Apple to overcome security measures built into the San Bernadino shooter’s phone and is asking the courts to have Congress settle the dispute. Apple already has an advocate in Congress, with Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) issuing a public letter asking the FBI to withdraw its lawsuit against the company and leave the question to lawmakers. “Using the court process and an antiquated law to coerce a private sector technology company is especially inappropriate in this situation because Congress has been actively debating the very issue of the appropriateness of mandating ‘back doors’ and other ways to weaken encryption,” Lieu wrote.
While the FBI claims that a “backdoor” created by Apple to access the San Bernadino shooter’s phone would only be used in this one circumstance, The Wall Street Journal reports there are at least 12 other cases where the U.S. Department of Justice is pursuing Apple for data from iPhones. None of those investigations have been made public, but sources said they are similar in that prosecutors are attempting to compel Apple to bypass the security code feature. The other cases don’t involve terrorism charges, and many are also different in that they involve older phones than the iPhone 5c involved in the San Bernadino case.
Apple has released three of its latest betas to developers today with iOS 9.3 beta 4, tvOS 9.2 beta 4, and watchOS 2.2 beta 4. The public version of iOS 9.3 beta 4 will likely also be released later this week. We’ll update our iOS and tvOS “Inside the betas” article later on with any relevant information, although changes thus far appear to be minimal, with a cosmetic change to the Night Shift icon in iOS 9.3 beta 4, and new firmware for the Siri Remote.
In a memo sent out this morning, Apple CEO Tim Cook thanked employees for their support during the company’s high-profile fight with the FBI and reiterated the company’s position against complying with an order to develop a new “backdoor” to decrypt information stored on the cell phone of one of the San Bernadino shooters,Buzzfeed reports. Cook responded to the FBI’s request via an open letter to customers last Tuesday, and today Apple posted a Q&A addressing further questions customers may have about the growing debate, explaining that the removal of privacy safeguards and the legal precedent set by such a move would put all Apple users at risk of having their personal information compromised. While FBI Director James Comey argued in a blog post that the FBI isn’t looking for a master key for access to all iPhones, Apple said the FBI’s argument — that the unlocking technique, once created, would be used only once for this specific iPhone — is impossible to guarantee. “Yes, it is certainly possible to create an entirely new operating system to undermine our security features as the government wants,” the document reads. “But it’s something we believe is too dangerous to do. The only way to guarantee that such a powerful tool isn’t abused and doesn’t fall into the wrong hands is to never create it.”
In addition to the previously rumoured dual-camera system, a new report from MacRumors suggests that the iPhone 7 may also include dual stereo speakers, with the second speaker being located in place of the 3.5mm headphone jack found on current iPhone 6s models. Reports that Apple was considering dropping the headphone jack began to surface last fall, although it wasn’t until last week that two analysts from Barclays suggested that Apple was in fact considering adding a second speaker in its place for stereo audio. The Barclays report suggested that the speaker system would be powered by an amp chip from Cirrus Logic, a notion seemingly confirmed by today’s report from DigiTimes that Cirrus Logic has now begun ramping up production capacity to provide chips for the iPhone 7.
An article in The New York Times provides some additional background details on what led up to Apple’s recent legal battles with the FBI over unlocking the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. The Times profiled Tim Cook and his past efforts involving digital privacy and human rights, and highlighted scenarios where Apple has previously worked with law enforcement agencies in responding to data-extraction requests, contrasting those with the current situation in which the CEO of the Cupertino company is now digging in his heels.
Notably, Apple has cooperated with law enforcement agencies in past years, although the company has often required that officials bring the devices under investigation to the company’s headquarters to be worked on by trusted Apple engineers in RF-shielded Faraday bags. More recently, however, with the development of iOS 8, Apple had taken steps to make it virtually impossible for even Apple engineers to gain access to encrypted iPhone data, essentially putting “keys squarely in the hands of the customer.” Apple continued to comply with court orders to the extent that it could, and in another situation similar to the current FBI request, a federal judge in New York ruled last October that the U.S. Government was overstepping its boundaries in the use of the All Writs Act to compel Apple to open an iPhone for a drug investigation — that particular case also still remains pending. Interestingly, the Times report also notes that Apple did work with the FBI following the San Bernardino attack to gather and provide data from the iPhone in question that had been backed up to iCloud. However, investigators also wanted unspecified information on the iPhone that had not been backed up, resulting in the judge ordering Apple to create a tool specifically to allow investigators to easily crack the iPhone’s passcode to gain access to the device.
Following reports earlier this month that certain unauthorized repairs made to iPhones were causing device failures, Apple has now issued an updated version of iOS — version 9.2.1 — that will restore any iPhones that have been “bricked” with this error message as well as preventing future iPhones from being disabled in the event of third-party repairs. Apple has also issued a support document detailing the error and the process to update or restore devices that are affected by the issue.
Apple has created a new hybrid of its iPhone Reuse + Recycle Program and iPhone Upgrade Program, allowing users to trade-in their old iPhone and then pay for a new model in installments, USA Today reports. The new program, dubbed “Trade Up With Installments,” can cost users as little as $15 per month depending on the iPhone and other smartphone models involved, and it allows users to trade in an older iPhone or even an Android or Windows phone. iPhone models as far back as the iPhone 4 can be traded in, and the report estimates that users will pay about $15 per month for each step up in model, with an interest-free term lasting for 24 months, similar to Apple’s current direct iPhone Upgrade Program. The report provides examples, indicating that users could pay $14.54 to $14.58/month to move from an iPhone 6 to an iPhone 6s or from an iPhone 4 to an iPhone 5s, or at the other extreme, $35.37/month to move from an iPhone 4 to a 128GB iPhone 6s Plus. The program is expected to be available in U.S. Apple Stores today.