#FBIvsApple could lead to "virtually limitless" surveillance powers, warns judge in iPhone case

What's at stake in the fight between the FBI and Apple over those iPhones? Oh, no big deal, just the legal green light for "virtually limitless" surveillance under the Internet of Things. That's what a federal judge has ruled in an order rejecting a government request in a New York drug case.

From the EFF's Parker Higgins:

Midway through his lengthy opinion, Magistrate Judge James Orenstein made that point clear as he dismantled the staggering government claim that Apple's software licensing arrangement was proof that the company was "sufficiently close" to consumer devices that it could be compelled to unlock them.

In layman's terms, the government was arguing that you don't own your iPhone—that, at least in some sense, Apple does. We at EFF have plenty of problems with end-user license agreements generally, and we didn't think that argument had much merit when the government first offered it. Apple quickly filed a brief matching our position.

Still, it's worth considering the chilling implications of the government's argument in an environment of technological advances, as Judge Orenstein does in a footnote:

As constantly increasing computing power is continually squeezed into ever smaller storage devices, the category of consumer products containing licensed software will continue to grow. In a world in which so many devices, not just smartphones, will be connected to the Internet of Things, the government's theory that a licensing agreement allows it to compel the manufacturers of such products to help it surveil the products' users will result in a virtually limitless expansion of the government's legal authority to surreptitiously intrude on personal privacy.

"Apple Fight Could Lead To "Virtually Limitless" Surveillance Powers, Judge Warns" [eff]