If Apple is Ordered to Unlock iPhone for FBI, Some Engineers Might Refuse to Help

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by MacRumors, Mar 17, 2016.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Should the FBI win its ongoing legal battle with Apple, resulting in the Cupertino company being ordered to unlock the iPhone 5c used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, some Apple engineers may decide not to cooperate with law enforcement.

    Apple employees who might be called on to help the FBI are already considering their actions should Apple lose the case, reports The New York Times, following interviews with half a dozen people involved in the development of mobile products and security at Apple.

    Accessing the iPhone in question would require Apple to comply with an FBI request for a new version of iOS that would both bypass passcode restrictions on the device and allow the FBI to enter a passcode electronically instead of manually. Apple has said it will take six to ten engineers a period of two to four weeks to develop the new operating system.

    Should Apple engineers decide not to develop the software the FBI is requesting, it could significantly delay the FBI's efforts to access the phone and it could result in legal consequences for those involved. As The New York Times points out, developing what Apple calls "GovtOS" would be difficult without the cooperation of key engineers, and Apple employees already have a solid idea who would be called on to help.
    If Apple employees refuse to write the code for the software, Apple could potentially face hefty fines for non-compliance.

    Apple will face off against the FBI in court next Tuesday, one day after the company's March 21 event that will see the debut of the 4-inch iPhone SE and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Both Apple and the FBI have previously submitted several briefs arguing their sides.

    Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

    Article Link: If Apple is Ordered to Unlock iPhone for FBI, Some Engineers Might Refuse to Help
  2. Z400Racer37 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 7, 2011
    I knew that would happen, These guys are heroic. Apple and it's employees are literally at gunpoint to produce x because the government wants it. What the hell is happening in The Land of the Free...
  3. gigapocket1 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 15, 2009
    The "expert" bug catcher. Doesn't do to good of a job eliminating bugs...
  4. darkgoob, Mar 17, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2016

    darkgoob macrumors regular

    Oct 16, 2008
    It's not just about that one phone. The Atlantic already reported that court documents show it's about at least 12 phones. Then after that, surely the floodgates would be opened.

    If Apple complies with this, they tacitly set a precedent. Then, every agency (NSA, CIA, every other government in the world and all their agencies, etc.) will come clamoring to have things unlocked.

    So Apple will then have to leave backdoors in their phones in order to continue being able to comply ... they simply can't keep making unbreakable phones, then wasting tons of time finding a way to break it, over and over again.

    If they leave a backdoor then hackers will find it and nobody's phones will be safe. You'll plug your iPhone in a charger in a Chinese hotel and it will be owned. Etc. Defense contractors' phones will get owned, China will steal yet more secrets; terrorists will hack airline pilots phones and be able to impersonate them and hijack planes; hackers will get into nuclear facilities through compromised devices.

    We just can't have insecure phones. This is where I store my heartbeat, my sleep cycles, my wallet, my most personal notes, logins to all my social media accounts that could be used to ruin my reputation; I would not dare trust it if I knew there was even a chance of it having a back door.

    The price of having privacy in society is the risk that criminals or terrorists may use that privacy to conceal their activities. I'm willing to pay that price; it's the price of freedom.

    Those brave soldiers who fight to protect our freedom are fighting to protect this: our right to privacy and individuality and freedom from constant surveillance.

    If we give up that, then the terrorists have already won.
  5. Slix macrumors 6502a


    Mar 24, 2010
    Good for them. As deep as this situation gets, I'm becoming increasingly proud of Apple's decisions to protect their users' privacy and data for the future.
  6. currocj macrumors regular

    Jul 8, 2008
    Is there going to be another Waco, TX in Cupertino. Grabbing the popcorn
  7. VulchR macrumors 68000


    Jun 8, 2009
    They should just write really buggy code... The kind that prevents iOS from booting.
  8. Mac 128 macrumors 68040

    Mac 128

    Apr 16, 2015
    So if corporations are people, and people go to jail when they are in contempt of a court order ... who goes to jail?
  9. zioxide macrumors 603


    Dec 11, 2006
    Moot point as Apple is not going to lose this case.

    But there's also nothing the court can do if these employees simply resign and no longer work for Apple at that point.
  10. gaximus macrumors 6502a

    Oct 11, 2011
    If the court forces Apple to do this and Apple declines, what would be the punishment? a fine. Apple should just pay the fine.
  11. timeconsumer macrumors 6502a


    Aug 1, 2008
    Thanks FBI, this is why we can't have nice things. The FBI just needs to drop this already.
  12. KPandian1 macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2013
    I truly hope the courts do not order Apple to unlock the iPhone OS, eventually ALL iPhones, by some legal manipulation, leading to such a confrontation with the software engineers.

    If that happens, it will be an interesting thing to watch! More fun will follow, as Whatsapp, Google, etc., will face the same drama.
  13. soupcan macrumors 6502a


    Nov 21, 2014
  14. photographypro macrumors regular


    Jul 7, 2010
    American in Pisa (Italy)
    The FBI says this is about one iPhone, but the terrorists destroyed two personal cell phones and removed the hard drive from a computer that has yet to be found. There is NOTHING of value on this particular iPhone. I believe the FBI made a case about it to establish a precedent for all iPhones.
  15. gnasher729, Mar 17, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2016

    gnasher729 macrumors G5


    Nov 25, 2005
    You obviously won't see the bugs that he catches.

    Apple and the engineers are literally _not_ at gunpoint. Apple is a company and cannot be literally at gun point. The engineers are literally at gun point if the FBI enters Apple's headquarters with guns drawn and pointing the guns at the engineers. Not that it would happen, but I think the result would be FBI agents in jail.

    It's not _that_ heroic. Apple isn't going to fire them. The court cannot force Apple to fire them (since firing them isn't going to get the software created).

    If the engineers refuse, then Apple _can't_ write the software. It wouldn't be Apple declining, but Apple not being able to do it. BTW, I don't think anyone knows if Apple _can_ actually install new firmware on a locked phone. Apple hasn't had any reason to try it yet.
  16. sshambles macrumors 6502a


    Oct 19, 2005
    My money says on Monday Apple releases the next iOS 9.3 update with huge security features, which, with whatever happens in court the next day, will be near impossible to break open through any method that the FBI is granted anyway.

    If plausible, it would be check and mate. No doubt these engineers are frantically right now working on something similar to this.
  17. naeS1Sean macrumors 6502a


    Oct 14, 2011
    Scranton, PA
  18. pavelbure, Mar 17, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2016

    pavelbure macrumors 6502a

    Feb 22, 2007
    This damn government, they have no idea who is coming over the border, terrorist or seasonal worker, and they really don't care, but they must have the info on this phone for the safety of the nation. Privacy and security for everyone be damned.
  19. PBRsg macrumors regular


    Aug 12, 2014
    TBH, I now see government as a bigger threat to my freedom than terrorists. My libertarian instincts were right all along...
  20. rdlink macrumors 68040


    Nov 10, 2007
    Out of the Reach of the FBI
    He does a better job than some do at catching spelling errors...
  21. VulchR macrumors 68000


    Jun 8, 2009
    Brilliant. :)
  22. Rocketman, Mar 17, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2016

    Rocketman macrumors 603


    They could take a leave of absence and work for Google, Amazon, IBM, Facebook and Twitter for a while. Brain drain. :D

    The problem is, it's not the government, per se. It is people working in the government at this moment. It is a political decision by the executive branch, its leaders, the agencies called FBI and DoJ led by real people appointed by this current President. This is on the hands of this President quite squarely.

    This is what you get when you mix a President with a Constitutional scholar and teacher, and a Community Organizer. You get malicious anti-constitutional, anti-citizen policies. Malicious economics, malicious partisan speech, malicious division of people by race, gender, income, education. All while giving speeches that overtly state the opposite is happening. We are seeing the first propaganda President that is open enough to get caught. Just like Putin always does.

    Nobody has the authority or means to stop either one of them.

    This is clear and convincing evidence the Federal government and particularly the individuals heading up the FBI and DoJ and the POTUS are expressly breaking the law.

    Any lawyer here that can tell me the recourse for this besides voting? Criminal or civil.


  23. rdlink macrumors 68040


    Nov 10, 2007
    Out of the Reach of the FBI
  24. HangmanSwingset macrumors 6502


    Feb 28, 2011
    Everett, WA
    Could always create a team of "experts" who really know f*** all about coding, let alone unlocking a phone. Technically they'd have people working on the matter.
  25. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Apple wouldn't have to fire those people if they'd rather to keep their talent on hand—they'd just need to prove they are hiring (or making a serious effort to hire, since you can't force acceptance of an offer) and training new people who will then learn to perform the mandated work, right?

    I don't see how the government could force an employer to terminate vital talent; nor could they enslave the employees to work directly for the government. So, they work would just have to take longer.

    (And yes, Apple's case is solid, so it shouldn't come to this. But the government sees itself above the law, and ever since the Patriot Act we've rubber-stamped that, so...)

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