It Doesn’t Matter Whether the San Bernardino iPhone Contains Useful Information

Jeff Gamet, writing for The Mac Observer:

The iPhone recovered from Syed Farook after he shot and killed 14 coworkers and then died in a shootout with police most likely doesn’t hold any valuable information. So says San Bernardino police chief Jarrod Burguan. Chief Burguan was asked about the phone during an NPR interview and he replied:

I’ll be honest with you, I think that there is a reasonably good chance that there is nothing of any value on the phone. What we are hoping might be on the phone would be potential contacts that we would obviously want to talk to.

There’s a small point to be made here, insofar as it suggests the FBI is being disingenuous. They’re saying that it’s not about precedent, it’s just about this one phone, this one investigation. But the real reason they’re making a big deal out of it is that it’s politically useful. The phone itself likely isn’t important but the situation surrounding the phone — “terrorism” and the tragedy of 14 innocent people being killed — lends sympathy to their desire for access to encrypted devices all the time.

But for those of us on Apple’s side, this is not a point to hang our hats on. Even if law enforcement claimed to know with certainty that the phone contained useful information, Apple’s arguments would all still stand. Eventually there will be such a phone.

And, likewise, I’m glad law enforcement is doing their best to check the contents of the phone. We want law enforcement to pursue all leads — within the confines of the law — even those that are unlikely to produce useful information.

Monday, 29 February 2016