U.S., Apple ratchet up rhetoric in fight over encryption

Sat Feb 20, 2016 12:16am EST
 
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By Dustin Volz and Julia Edwards

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion on Friday seeking to compel Apple Inc AAPL.O to comply with a judge's order to unlock the encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters, portraying the tech giant's refusal as a "marketing strategy."

In response, a senior Apple executive, speaking with reporters on condition of anonymity, characterized the Justice Department's filing as an effort to argue its case in the media before the company has a chance to respond.

The back and forth escalated a showdown between the Obama administration and Silicon Valley over security and privacy that ignited earlier this week.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking the tech company's help to access shooter Syed Rizwan Farook's phone by disabling some of its passcode protections. The company so far has pushed back and on Thursday won three extra days to respond to the order.

Another senior Apple executive said Congress is the right place for a debate over encryption, not a courtroom.

The executive said Apple was stunned that such a legal request had come from the U.S. government rather than a country with weaker traditions of protecting privacy and civil liberties.

The motion to compel Apple to comply did not carry specific penalties for the company, and the Justice Department declined to comment on what recourse it was willing to seek.

In the order, prosecutors acknowledged that the latest filing was "not legally necessary" since Apple had not yet responded to the initial order.   Continued...

 
An Apple logo hangs above the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City, July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar