DOJ Drops Lawsuit Against Apple

Mar 28th, 2016 AppleVsFBI

Justice Department Drops Lawsuit Against Apple as FBI has now Unlocked Farook’s iPhone (TechCrunch): Apple’s magnificent marketing campaign, which was playing out in the court of public opinion along with its case in the Central District of California may have backfired, according to this article.  The court filing, which is included here, says rather succinctly “The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance of Apple Inc. .”  The full article is here.



[Editor’s Opinion]

I may not have an MBA from Harvard, but from my time at Northeastern, I seem to recall that a key element of any marketing strategy is to provide messaging that actually supports your product’s abilities in the short term and will lead to increased sales in the mid to long term.  Here, Apple CEO, Tim Cook chose to spend a few weeks fighting the government’s request to assist the DOJ by creating a specific iOS update that could be installed on a specific iPhone 5c that would allow the DOJ to employ brute-force hacking methods to unlock the phone and access the data therein.  Had Cook merely acquiesced and used his marketing machine to explain that Apple would assist the DOJ by creating a special iOS version that could be uploaded on this specific iPhone 5c phone to allow the DOJ to bypass the timeout features, as well as the data-erase functions, they may have managed to maintain the illusion that their hardware and software is “unbreakable.”  However, Apple’s CEO chose a different strategy and decried this government intrusion on privacy rights grounds and even extended the argument to suggest that requesting that Apple developers spend two weeks writing this code was a free speech infringement since code is speech and ergo forcing someone to write specific code is analogous to forcing someone to say something.  That position is very bizarre and seemingly non-sensical although Apple and its extensive legal staff decided to push this narrative during their media offensive against the big, bad government.

Now Apple will need to figure out how to spin the narrative that no, they would not comply with the DOJ order unless they were forced to do so in order to uphold the privacy rights of everyone in the world.  Meanwhile, a company (rumored to be Israeli tech company Cellebrite) rolled in, accepted the challenge and now can presumably unlock not just the single iPhone in question, but any iPhone5 running this same iOS version.  This seems to be a larger privacy issue than Apple creating a specific iOS version that would only update a specific iPhone 5c.  So I guess that privacy advocates and those who were hoping to pick up cheap iPhone 5c’s in order to lurk in the shadows may want to rethink those purchases now that these are seemingly ripe for the picking.

Apple took a gamble and tried to rally the world with them to stand against oppression and government intrusion on privacy.  Now, the government has the lawful access to this iPhone that they sought following their valid court order and now Apple is left trying to explain exactly how secure their iOS software and Apple hardware truly is (or isn’t) as the case may be.  I suppose if Apple had unveiled a new iPhone that was incapable of being broken in this manner then one could view this marketing strategy as a long game; however given the fact that none of the current marketing literature seems to say that, this seems more like a marketing fail.

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. She is the 2018-9 Editor in Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, as well as a member of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography


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