First let’s talk a little about warrants and searches. The Government has a right to search your home, your property or your person without your consent, as long as it has a warrant. It can also seize your property with a warrant. That’s the law. That’s what the constitution allows. That’s the extent of your privacy rights in connection with search and seizure by the Government. And if they have your permission, they don’t need a warrant.
In the case of the terrorist phone involved in the San Bernadino killings, the phone belonged to the county, the people using the phone did not have a right to use it for personal private use. The county gave the government permission to search it.
Think of it this way. If the Government had a warrant to search your apartment, and they didn’t have the key they could either break down the door or make the landlord give them the key.
So now we come to the phone. The only potentially viable argument Apple has against unlocking the phone (and the one they have made) is that allowing this to happen, the act of inventing the software to do it, somehow is so dangerous to all American citizens that it violates the 4th Amendment. And that under the law, they can’t be forced to do so. I am sure, philosophically, this makes sense to many people. The Government is indeed not trustworthy, security is not infallible and no matter how its done, the software is likely to get out.
This is the first argument and really the only argument Apple has. To me that’s somewhat disingenuous. If the Software can be invented, and if the problem is that security is not infallible, so if its invented it will get out, why isn’t it out already? Is Apple’s security so much better than everyone else’s that only they can prevent someone from inventing software that governments would pay billions for (slight exaggeration) and it getting on the market? Can only someone hidden away in Apple’s admittedly security conscious facilities invent such software? Is the US Government so incompetent that they need someone else to do this? The NSA who supposedly can spy on everyone and everything, can’t hack into one iphone? Really?
I imagine it would take time to break the encryption. They clearly believe Apple can do it quicker and easier. No doubt true. But if it can be done by Apple, ultimately the Government can probably do it themselves. And if that’s the case, why is Apple fighting this? The Pollyanna in me wants to say that Apple is taking a philosophical stand. The cynic in me wants to say this is great marketing and publicity for Apple and they don’t get that very often.
The fact is that the case for Apple is a loser. The Government can make the apartment manager unlock the door.