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Apple's Pushback Against US Court Order Raises Privacy Questions For Tech Firms

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In the days since Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) wrote its customers an open letter explaining the firm's resistance to comply with a federal court order requesting that the company unlock an iPhone belonging to a participant in the San Bernardino terror attacks, the tech space has been alight with questions about whether or not lawmakers should have access to customer data.

Apple says that the court's request would require it to design a program in order to hack its own users, something CEO Tim Cook feels would set a dangerous precedent. Now, with the question of where tech firms stand when it comes to lawmakers' requests for information on the table, many are wondering what rights tech firms have.

Wireless Providers

Unlike tech firms like Apple, phone companies like AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) have very little say in whether or not they will hand over customer data.

US laws require wireless carriers to allow law enforcement to monitor customer calls on their networks, even those placed over the internet. While this is useful to law enforcement, it doesn't cover every type of communication over the internet, which is why the request has been made for Apple to turn over its own data.

The Cloud

While it is difficult for law enforcement to get a hold of information contained on a locked device like a smartphone, data stored in the cloud is another story. Apple has already complied with government requests to turn over its iCloud data from the San Bernadino suspect's phone, but it was last backed up on October 19.

That means that nearly 2 months worth of data could be stored on the phone in question, but without Apple's help law enforcement have no way of accessing it.

Data stored on Apple's servers is much more readily available to government officials, but the information stored on the devices themselves is encrypted with a key that not even Apple itself possesses.

Posted-In: News Legal Markets Tech


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