Feds say Apple's pro-privacy response to iPhone hacking order is a 'marketing stunt'

Apple CEO Tim Cook

Apple said no to the government, and the government is pissed.

The Department of Justice today filed a motion asking a federal court to force Apple to comply with a court order to help the FBI hack into an iPhone used by one of the suspects in the San Bernardino mass shooting.

In the 30-page document [PDF], government lawyers write that Apple is only resisting out of “concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy.”

The DoJ filing pressed U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of Riverside, CA to follow through on her earlier order compelling Apple to do what the FBI demands. In an open letter, Apple CEO Tim Cook let the world know the tech giant plans to fight that order, because of the broad privacy implications for the entire tech industry.

Pym gave Apple extra time until next Friday to file legal arguments against the government's orders.

The Justice Department's filing today responds to Tim Cook's characterization of the FBI’s request as a demand for a “back door to every iPhone.” The request doesn't mean Apple is hacking its own customers, argue the government's lawyers, and the tech tools the FBI wants Apple to build to help the FBI hack the phone would not increase security risks for iPhone users.

"To allow Apple not to comply with the order would frustrate the execution of a valid warrant and thwart the public interest in a full and complete investigation of a horrific act of terrorism," prosecutors wrote.

“Apple has attempted to design and market its products to allow technology, rather than the law, to control access to data which has been found by this Court to be warranted for an important investigation,” the motion continues. “Despite its efforts, Apple nonetheless retains the technical ability to comply with the Order, and so should be required to obey it.”

From the San Jose Mercury News:

To underscore the stakes and the scope of the anticipated legal battle ahead, Apple has enlisted former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson and his powerhouse law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, to represent the company in the case, according to court filings Friday and one of Olson's partners in Los Angeles.

The government is relying on a 19th-century law to force Apple to help in the terror probe, saying in court papers that federal investigators have gotten cooperation under that law in similar requests around the country. A federal judge in Brooklyn has been weighing one of those cases since last fall.

From Kim Zetter's coverage at WIRED:

As WIRED pointed out this week in a detailed description of what the government wants, the FBI is not asking Apple to unlock the iPhone in question but instead to write a new software tool—essentially a crippled version of its iOS software–to eliminate specific security protections the company built into its phone software to protect customer data. With that software installed on the phone, it would allow the FBI to perform a brute-force password-cracking attack on the phone in an attempt to unlock it and retrieve encrypted data stored on it.

In its motion today, the government laid out a series of counterarguments for every argument it expects Apple to make in its formal response to the court next week.

Previously on Boing Boing:
Can Apple crack the San Bernardino killers' iPhone for the FBI?

The government was pushing Apple to break iPhone security long before San Bernardino attack

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