George Brandis says Apple should unlock iPhones for the FBI

Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty.

Attorney-General George Brandis has joined the likes of Donald Trump in calling for Apple to help the FBI and provide backdoor access to an iPhone used by one of the shooters in December’s San Bernadino massacre.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook announced in an open letter on Wednesday that the world’s most valuable company will be fighting a court order for it to write software that provides backdoor access into its devices.

“The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable,” Cook wrote.

The company was ordered to provide “reasonable technical assistance” to investigators seeking to unlock data from an iPhone 5C recovered from Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters.

George Brandis has now weighed into the discussion too, telling the ABC, “We would expect, as in Australia, that all orders of courts should be obeyed by any party which is the subject of a lawful order by a court.”

He added that while this case is not an Australian matter, he believed it represented an issue that will face law enforcement agencies and tech companies in the future, saying, “when encryption of data is becoming almost ubiquitous and vast quantities of data which would previously have been accessible by warrant to law enforcement agencies inaccessible”.

“I think it shows how important it is that ISPs do cooperate with law enforcement agencies in facilitating and cooperating with proper investigations into serious crime.”

“Frankly, if data is encrypted in a way that is entirely inaccessible, without the cooperation of the ISP or the maker of the device, then that makes inaccessible relevant investigative information that would hitherto have been accessible and that’s a problem for law enforcement.”

Earlier today, US presidential candidate Donald Trump shared similar sentiments, saying, “We have to be very careful, we have to be very vigilant, but to think that Apple won’t allow us to get into her cell phone — who do they think they are? Now we have to open it up.”

New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton also said Apple should cooperate with authorities.

“We are increasingly blind for terrorism purposes and for general law enforcement purposes with the new devices and the continuing effort to make them even more secure against even court orders authorising law enforcement to have access,” Bratton said.

But despite Brandis, Trump and Bratton’s comments, other big tech companies including Google are standing with Apple, with the search giant’s CEO Sundar Pichai tweeting that if Apple did give in to the FBI’s requests it could set a “troubling precedent”.

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