The implications of the FBI forcing Apple to create a compromised version of iOS to break into an iPhone could be profound, argues Lavabit – an encrypted email company that closed its service rather than comply with an FBI demand to hand over its encryption key. Company founder Ladar Levison (above) was found to be in contempt of court when he refused to hand over the key in 2013.
It warns that iPhone and iPad users may reject future iOS updates, which would leave security holes unplugged.
If the government is successful, however, many consumers may not be as trustful of these updates because of a fear (actual or imagined) that the updates will contain malware to provide a backdoor into the data on their iPhones. The result is that fewer people will automatically accept the automatic updates and the overall security of iPhones across the country will suffer.
But the effects of a ruling against Apple could go even further, the company suggests …
Such precedence would likely result in many businesses moving their operations offshore, therefore, making it more difficult for law enforcement to obtain even ordinary assistance from such companies
There is evidence for this suggestion, TechCrunch noting that three tech companies whose businesses rely on encryption have already moved out of U.S. jurisdiction – citing the stronger respect for privacy in Europe as the reason.
Secure encrypted comms company Silent Circle, moved its global headquarters from the Caribbean to Switzerland back in May 2014 — citing the latter’s “strong privacy laws” as one of the reasons to headquarter its business in Europe. Various other pro-encryption startups, including ProtonMail and Tutanota, have also chosen to locate their businesses in countries in Europe that have a reputation for protecting privacy.
Lavabit’s court filing echoes Apple’s argument that if the government wants to be able to force tech companies to provide this kind of assistance, Congress should pass a law to that effect.
An amicus brief is an argument intended to help a court reach a decision made by a party not directly involved in the case. Anyone can file one, and it has even been suggested that members of the House Judiciary Committee – the committee that held the Congressional hearing – may file one supporting Apple.