Now that the FBI no longer needs Apple’s help to access the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists, one might reasonably think that the long and publicly drawn-out debate over mobile encryption, government surveillance, user privacy and national security will settle down and fade from public view.
And for a while, it most likely will. Still, even though Apple may have won this specific battle with the FBI over one particular iPhone, nothing has truly been resolved aside from the FBI figuring out a way to hack into Apple’s 2013 iPhone 5c. In the future, there is no doubt that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies will stumble across more advanced and secure iPhone models they’re unable to access.
When this happens, it’s a good bet that they will once again try to use the court system to force Apple’s hand. Hardly a point of conjecture, the DOJ itself has all but conceded that it will use its recent court decision against Apple as precedent when future and similar cases arise in the future.
In an emailed statement provided to Ars Technica, a DOJ spokeswoman said that the Justice Department in the future will not shy away from seeking the assistance of device manufacturers.
The statement reads as follows:
It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with cooperation from relevant parties, or through the court system when cooperation fails. We will continue to pursue all available options for this mission, including seeking the cooperation of manufacturers and relying upon the creativity of both the public and private sectors.
The FBI may have miscalculated the manner in which public opinion helped shape and influence its recent legal squabble with Apple, but there’s no indication that its done scrapping with Apple and other device manufacturers just yet.
From Apple’s perspective, the company has long maintained that the difficult issues raised by the case should be addressed and solved by lawmakers, not the courts.
As Apple noted in its reaction statement to the DOJ’s recent motion: “This case raised issues which deserve a national conversation about our civil liberties, and our collective security and privacy. Apple remains committed to participating in that discussion.”