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Harvard Law Professor explains why FBI’s position rests on ‘shaky legal ground’

Apple Vs FBI

Harvard Law professor Susan Crawford recently laid out her opinion on Apple’s ongoing legal battle with the FBI, and in doing so, laid a legal smack down on the idea that the FBI can legally force Apple to rewrite iOS.

While most hot takes on mobile encryption naturally focus on broad ranging policy ramifications, Crawford tackles the issue from a purely legal perspective. Writing for Medium, Crawford doesn’t mince words as she explains why the entirety of the FBI’s position rests on “shaky legal ground.”

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Getting straight to the point, Crawford details why the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) precludes government agencies like the FBI from telling private companies how to design software.

“CALEA was the subject of intense negotiation — a deal, in other words,” Crawford explains. “The government won an extensive, specific list of wiretapping assistance requirements in connection with digital communications. But in exchange, in Section 1002 of that act, the Feds gave up authority to “require any specific design of equipment, facilities, services, features or system configurations” from any phone manufacturer.”

Consequently, the government, in getting CALEA passed, agreed that digital communications companies do not need to seek clearance “in advance of launching a new device.” Additionally, the government also lost the ability to dictate how manufacturers need to design their products. In other words, the FBI in this particular case has no legal basis to demand Apple create what would effectively be a backdoor into one of its products.

Make sure to check out the entirety of Crawford’s well-reasoned piece via the source link below.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.