Apple vs FBI Case Over Unlocking Terrorist's iPhone - TimeLines

On December 2, 2015, the California city San Bernardino was attacked by two terrorists. 14 people were killed in the San Bernardino attack while 22 were injured seriously. The attack was made by the Redlands citizens and a married couple named as Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. After the attack was made, both of them ran in a rented SUV and were killed on the same day in a Police shootout. Later on, the FBI recovered an Apple iPhone5C which was the property of one of the suspects – Syed Rizwan. FBI tried for a week, but their experts were unable to unlock the phone due to its advanced security features. So FBI asked Apple Inc. to decrypt the phone or to reinstall the Operating System to disable some of the security features. But, as Apple has a privacy policy that they never undermine the security features of the product, they refused to do so. And all the controversy started from here.

After Apple refused to unlock the phone, FBI put a court case on Apple to force them to decrypt the phone. The phone was encrypted and was set by a 4-digit password lock, it was set to drop all the data after ten wrong password attempts. So the FBI wanted an electronic key or to say an encryption key from Apple to unlock the phone. Apple has put strong arguments on the considerations of their privacy policy for the user’s secret data safety. On just a day before the hearing from the court, the government granted a delay which was requested by the FBI on the grounds that they had taken a help from the third party and soon will unlock the phone.

The case was registered as a biggest-profile clash, as the Federal agency and a technology giant was directly involved in it. The debate was over the data privacy, encryption technology and user’s trust on the company. The FBI strongly appeals that if they can get the encryption keys for the Apple iPhones, then they can solve several cases and can also stop many terrorist attacks.

The FBI also appeals to put National Security ahead of any so called privacy policy of a company or data safety of a user, as they are asking it for the ‘safety of the national residents of the America’. On the opposite side, the Apple believed that the order was “unreasonably burdensome”. Also, the company cited the security risks that no customer would believe on the company’s privacy policy if they agree to show the encryption keys. Also, they stated that no government had ever asked for the same access to the encryption key or password unlock facility from them. The company was given a time until February 26, 2016, to fully respond to the government order. And the hearing was scheduled for March 22, 2016, by the court. However, later on, the federal agency stated that they had found a third party to unlock the Apple product.

On March 28, 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has announced that they were successful in unlocking the iPhone and have accessed all the data on the phone. “Due to some ‘technical aspects’, we cannot reveal the process of how they unlocked the iPhone nor the name of the third-party who helped to break the security features of one of the world’s top listed encrypted product”, as stated by the FBI. In reply, Apple made a statement that “we will continue to help the security agencies in their investigations, and are committed to increasing the security features of our products by looking for the data privacy of our users and any kind of attacks on our company’s data.”

The FBI got their desired results and Apple stuck with its guns for defending data privacy of its users. So, it is quite difficult to say who won the case or who was stronger in appeal, as the department of justice dropped the case after FBI got access to Farook’s iPhone. There are still some questions about the Apple’s security effectiveness, though. The case is now over, but it does not mean that there will be not any rumbling between the government and the technology companies as it is likely to continue.

Author Bio:

Niki is a graduate in Electronics and Communication. She is passionate about writing on technology, electronics, news and Health. Currently she blog at

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