It’s all well and good for iPhone users and civil libertarians to fawn over Apple’s decision to fight a federal judge’s order to help the FBI unlock a terrorist’s iPhone. We wonder if their high-minded attitudes would change if they happened to make their homes in a gang-infested neighborhood.
Yes, privacy discussions are ever so compelling in theory, but the company’s refusal to assist the feds has implications right here in our own neighborhoods.
Police and prosecutors have said that in addition to the San Bernardino case there are hundreds of local cases pending in which encrypted cellphones could provide evidence. Yesterday we learned that one of those cases involves a suspected member of the Columbia Point Dawgs, a notorious Boston street gang that has wreaked havoc for decades and was part of a major takedown last year.
The FBI wants to examine the password-protected iPhone of Desmond Crawford, the suspected triggerman in the drive-by shooting of a rival gang member. Crawford faces a slew of criminal charges, and agents suspect his phone contains crucial evidence. A federal magistrate has signed off on a search warrant.
But like Syed Farook, the San Bernardino shooter, Crawford’s iPhone operated on Apple’s encrypted system that the feds can’t crack — at least, not without Apple’s assistance.
And the company, no surprise, isn’t leaping at the chance to help.
Apple insists that if it helps law enforcement “hack” its users’ phones it will open a privacy Pandora’s box. But the feds aren’t asking the company to unlock every iPhone and provide the government with unfettered access to customer data.
They’re asking simply that Apple help locate the right key to fit the lock — and only if a court approves. We suspect Desmond Crawford’s neighbors would agree, that isn’t too much to ask.
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