Over and over again as people keep talking about the Apple / FBI encryption stuff, I keep seeing the same line pop up. It’s something along the lines of “but the FBI needs to know what’s on that phone, so if Apple can help, why shouldn’t it.” Let’s debunk that myth. The FBI absolutely does not need to know what’s on that phone. It might not even care very much about what’s on that phone. As the Grugq ably explained last week, there’s almost certainly nothing of interest on the phone. As he notes, Farook destroyed his and his wife’s personal phones, indicating that if there were anything truly important, he would have destroyed the last phone too. Also:
FBI already has a massive amounts of data, all of which indicates that Farook and Malik were not in contact with a foreign terrorist organisation, nor were they in contact with any other unknown terrorists.
Even if, despite all evidence to the contrary, Farook and Malik were somehow in invisible traceless contact with an ISIS handler, that handler would not have revealed information about other cells, because that would violate the most basic tenet of security — need to know.
Other information, including things like who they were in contact with could be obtained from other sources — either service providers for metadata or from the phones of those they were in contact with.
There’s another post by forensic scientist Jonathan Zdziarski that provides even more reasons why there’s almost certainly nothing of use on the phone — noting that Farook left the “track my phone” feature on, even though it’s on the same settings page as turning off the iCloud backup, which the FBI claims he turned off.
But let’s get beyond even that. Assume that there actually is something interesting or useful on the phone. That still doesn’t mean the FBI “needs” the information. In basically any situation where crime has occurred, there is a ton of information that might be useful, but that is far from mandatory. Hell, in this case alone, there were the destroyed phones. It’s much more likely that there would have been useful information on those phones. But no one’s talking about how the FBI “needs” that information, because everyone knows the FBI can’t get it. And, since much of the planning for this attack must have happened between Farook and Malik in their home, the FBI is never going to know what they said to each other as they sat around the kitchen table, or on the sofa, or in bed. And, again, no one is upset about this information that is “not accessible” because there’s always information that’s not accessible.
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