Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) appears to have obtained much more time to prepare its defense against a court order compelling it to hack the iPhone used by an alleged suspect in the San Bernadino shootings last December. Company insiders reveal that the company is due to file its response in court on Feb. 26, rather than on Tuesday. The company had earlier been granted five days, starting Feb. 16, to lodge its appeal against an order requiring it to assist the FBI decrypt the iPhone.
However, it isn’t clear whether the extension is as a result to Apple’s request for more time, or due to internal court bureaucracy, reports Bloomberg.
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has opposed the order, which tests its commitment to safeguard its customers’ privacy vis-à-vis the U.S. government effort to fight crime.
Mr. Cook argues that the order could set a “dangerous precedent” that will enable the government to intercept private messages, access personal data, or even track a user’s movement.
The U.S. District Court in L.A. ordered Apple to develop software that blocks the iPhone from deleting data stored inside after 10 failed tries to input a passcode. The software should ensure electronic passcodes can be sent on the phone, rather than having to type them manually. This will help security agents to automatically key in several passcodes until the desired one is obtain.
The iPhone belonged to Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife Tashfeen Malik, were responsible for the Dec. 2 shootings in California that claimed 14 people and seriously injured 22 others. The suspects were later gunned down in a shootout with law enforcement agents.
Apple fears that if the order is implemented, it would also create loopholes that will give hackers and enemy spies a field day and compromise national security. It also fears it would lead to the escalation of industrial espionage, and ultimately result in loss of faith in its devices by users.
Apple Likely to Invoke Free Speech Rights
Reuters reported Friday that Apple is likely to base its defense on free speech rights, based on opinion of leading lawyers.
Apple is relying on the services of two renowned, free-speech attorneys to quash the court order. The lawyers are Theodore Boutrous, mostly known for representing clients in media industry; and Theodore Olson, the mastermind who in 2010, successfully argued in a political-speech case titled “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission”.
On the other hand, U.S. Justice Department attorneys have based their argument on various rulings, including a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court verdict that forced a telephone firm to assist to set up a tool for recording telephone numbers.