Apple Facing Uphill Public Relations Battle Against FBI

The federal judiciary hasn't yet ruled on the FBI's encryption battle with Apple, but the government appears to be winning in the court of public opinion.

A slim majority -- 51% -- of U.S. adults surveyed by the Pew Research Center say they believe Apple should unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. Only 38% said Apple should refuse to unlock the device, and 11% said they didn't have an opinion. Those figures come from a telephone survey of 1,002 people conducted last weekend.

Researchers told the respondents that the FBI says accessing the iPhone is an important part of the ongoing investigation, and that Apple says unlocking the device could compromise other iPhone users' security.

It's worth noting that despite the wording of the question, the FBI isn't technically asking Apple to unlock the device. Instead, the authorities want Apple to create software that will disable a security feature that prevents hackers from repeatedly testing different passwords on the phone.

Apple has consistently said that once such software exists, it could be used to hack other devices. CEO Tim Cook made that point again today, in a new Web site devoted to the controversy. "In the digital world, the technique, once created, could be used over and over again, on any number of devices," the company states. "In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks. Of course, Apple would do our best to protect that key, but in a world where all of our data is under constant threat, it would be relentlessly attacked by hackers and cybercriminals."

FBI director James Comey counters that whatever Apple creates to help unlock the phone will quickly become dated. "The relief we seek is limited and its value increasingly obsolete because the technology continues to evolve," he writes in a blog post published Sunday.

Last week, a federal judge ordered Apple to create the software the FBI is seeking. Apple is challenging that order in court. The company is expected to file new legal arguments by Friday.

2 comments about "Apple Facing Uphill Public Relations Battle Against FBI".
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  1. Chuck Lantz from, network, February 22, 2016 at 6:28 p.m.

    The Pew Research results can, and probably should be, completely ignored, since the basic questions asked were something along the lines of "should Apple be forced to unlock" that phone.

    The question itself is meaningless. Apple can and does "unlock" their phones when asked to do so by the owner of the phone, as long as the owner has a good reason to have it unlocked.  I had Apple do this when I was travelling in the UK, and I needed a local SIM card to transmit photos I was shooting of an event.  It takes anywhere from three days to a week to complete the process, but it can be done.

    All of which illustrates the problem with the media's handling of this story. In fact, this article is one of only two times that I've seen the actual impact of the FBI's request spelled-out. They are not simply asking to be allowed to look at the contents of one phone, but are demanding that Apple create something that doesn't even exist.

    And I can't help but think that this is the same FBI that has been caught, time after time, over-stepping their authority by spying upon, and leaking private information of American citizens whose only "crime" was being out of step with whichever political side was in power at the time.  It's only my opinion, but I think if the FBI had a better track-record, they would have a lot more support in their battle with Apple. 

  2. Gary Frisch from Swordfish Communications, February 24, 2016 at 10:12 a.m.

    "Of course, Apple would do our best to protect that key, but in a world where all of our data is under constant threat, it would be relentlessly attacked by hackers and cybercriminals."  

    What hogwash.  So the U.S.'s biggest company can't be relied upon to protect its own proprietary software and code?  Yes, I understand hackers pose a threat, but reasonable security measures should be able to keep that threat at bay. Apple's saying if they produce this hack, it's just a matter of time before it falls into the wrong hands. Sorry, I'm not buying that. They're blowing smoke. Read more in my Linkedin post on this topic.

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