Tag: Apple Inc.

Hacking Apple


Apple said on Wednesday that it would oppose and challenge a federal court order to help the F.B.I. unlock an iPhone used by one of the two attackers who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., in December.

On Tuesday, in a significant victory for the government, Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of the Federal District Court for the District of Central California ordered Apple to bypass security functions on an iPhone 5c used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who was killed by the police along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, after they attacked Mr. Farook’s co-workers at a holiday gathering.

But hours later, in a statement by its chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, Apple announced its refusal to comply. The move sets up a legal showdown between the company, which says it is eager to protect the privacy of its customers, and the law enforcement authorities, who say that new encryption technologies hamper their ability to prevent and solve crime.

Apple’s point is that the government is essentially trying to bypass the ongoing political and legal debate over encryption. We’ve mentioned this debate before: companies like Apple and Google are giving their phones encryption capabilities that are supposedly unbreakable. The federal government is trying to force them to provide backdoors into those encryption methods. But Apple notes, correctly, that there’s no such animal as a “backdoor” that would be exclusive to the government. It would compromise all the security on their phones, creating a capacity that any hacker could use.

(I would also note that, even if this were not true, creating a backdoor for the government is a huge problem. We have seen, with the Patriot Act and mass surveillance, that the federal government can not be trusted to use these power for “only” terrorism. Inevitably, these capabilities will be used to pursue the War on Drugs, the War on Sex Work, the War on You.)

Forcing Apple to develop new software to access Farook’s phone is an attempt to bypass this debate and create backdoors without a national debate, without an act of Congress and without input from civli libertarians. It may also be on very shaky legal ground:

Second, as the Post article notes the use of the All Writs Act in this manner appears to be unprecedented and, if upheld, would essentially allow the government to do almost anything in the name of law enforcement and intelligence gathering. Finally, and perhaps most strongly, it’s important to note that law enforcement isn’t asking Apple to provide information that it already has, which is what an ordinary search warrant does. It is essentially asking a Federal Court to compel Apple to do something, in this case create a backdoor that does not exist. This arguably falls well outside the scope of the Fourth Amendment and, if upheld, would give law enforcement authority to compel technology companies to do almost anything conceivable in the name of a purported investigation or surveillance of a target. That seems to go well beyond what the Constitution and existing law permits law enforcement to do.

But not beyond what they want to do. This is not just about Farook’s phone; they are demanding that Apple provide a capacity that can be used with any phone. I suspect that the feds know that their case is weak — they invoked Farook’s victims immediately as if a massive tragedy abrogates the Constitution.

It’s not like the FBI has nothing to go on here. They have access to the meta-data. They have the phone itself. They have any computers. They can get warrants for e-mail servers.

Apple should stand their ground here. They should fight this all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary (and this makes me miss Scalia, who could sometimes be good on Fourth Amendment issues). If the Federal government establishes a precedent that they can force tech companies to hack into our electronic devices, the Fourth Amendment will be hanging by a thread.

Biting the Apple

It was inevitable. You remember the scene in Godfather II when Don Fannucci jumps on Vito Corleone’s car and demands a share of his business — just enough to “wet my beak”? That’s going on in Washington with Apple in the car and 525 Congressmen on the side board.

Every successful company finds out that it can’t just work on improving its products and serving consumers. Sooner or later, it’s going to have to deal with politicians and regulators sniffing around its business.

Yes, Apple — praised to the skies for being an innovator and job creator by Washington politicians when that narrative serves their interests — has become the latest target of the political class.

According to Politico, the daily newspaper of lobbyists and political consultants, industry giant Apple spent a mere $500,000 in Washington in the first quarter of 2012, compared to more than $7 million Google and Microsoft spent on lobbying and related activities from January through March of this year.

Then Politico lowers the boom: “The company’s attitude toward D.C. — described by critics as ‘don’t bother us’ — has left it without many inside-the-Beltway friends.”

The same things happened to Microsoft, Paypal, Google, Intel and many other tech companies. They started out wanting to just to business. And then Washington said, “I hear you and your friends are selling computers. But you don’t even send a dress to my house. No respect! You should let me wet my beak a little!” Now they play the Washington game.

Companies that don’t pay the protection money will find that there is some law nebulous enough to attack them with. Anti-trust is a common avenue since the definition of a monopoly is deliberately vague. And indeed, the FTC is now seeing if Apple is stifling competition. The Justice Department is looking at their e-book pricing. And the International Trade Commission is looking at their patents. If these don’t work I’m sure they’ll find some rule or law Apple has violated. The advantage of having so many thousands of laws on the books, as Harvey Silverglate noted, is that everyone is guilty of something even they dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’.

This will stop the same it way it stopped with Microsoft and Google — when Apple buys a bunch of lobbyists and makes the customary tribute to Washington. This will stop when they let the 525 Don Fanucci’s wet their beaks in Apple’s success.

Don’t like it? Quit supporting big government. It is only the extent and power of our massive Federal government that gives them both their sense of entitlement and the ability to extort their share. There may never come a time when Washington doesn’t feel entitled to their tribute. But why must we make it so easy for them?

This American Lie

NPR.Public Radio. Bastion of integrity. The radio network so nobel and so devoted to public service that we, the little people, have to fork over some of our tax dollars to support it.


Apple got a lot of attention recently over conditions in the Chinese factories that make its iPhones and iPads. The public radio show “This American Life” aired an electrifying account of one man’s visit to several factories. The man was Mike Daisey, a storyteller who is widely credited with making people think differently about how their Apple products are made.

It’s Daisey’s story about visiting a Foxconn factory in China where Apple manufactures iPhones and other products. With the help of a Chinese translator, Daisey finds underage workers, poisoned workers, maimed workers, and dismal factory conditions for those who make iPhones and iPads.

The problem? It wasn’t true. Oh, some of the underlying facts are true. There are reports of hexane poisoning and some of Apple’s contractors have been caught using underage labor. But what Daisey now admits is that he took the scattered reports and wove them together into a fictional account of his visit, an account that portrays Apple as an evil predator company rather than a company doing business in a country where concern for workers and/or the environment is, at best, desultory. He portrayed Apple workers as abused slaves rather than people who are grateful to have a job that, by the standards of China, is pretty damned decent.

Watch the Left very carefully on this one. The litmus test for how much you value media accuracy is what you do when your favorite outlet has been caught in a lie. If you twist yourself into a pretzel to justify it or ignore it, you really don’t care about the truth; you care about getting the message out for your “team”. If any of This American Life’s fans say anything other than, “this is a disgrace”, you know what they’re listening to the show for validation of their biases, not information.

Note: I initially threw this at NPR and deserve to be kicked. They don’t produce TAL. It’s produced independently and distributed by PRI.

My basic point remains. This came through publicly-funded radio that we pay for and is broadcast to an audience that is largely liberal.