In the showdown between Apple and the FBI over an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino attackers, some would argue that the company should acquiesce to the government’s request that it create a “backdoor” into the device allowing it to bypass the built-in strong encryption. Here’s what people who make this argument are missing: the law doesn’t work that way.
The government filed a motion in the U.S. District Court asking the court to direct assist law enforcement in bypassing the security features of the device. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym approved the government’s request and ordered Apple to comply. The FBI and others argue that this is a one-off instance of bypassing security. But it is not.
If the legal order stands, then it will be used as precedent in other cases. New motions made for other unanticipated reasons will refer to this case as a precedent and make it easier for law enforcement to force technology providers to hand over data.
If the U.S. Federal government had not spent the last nearly 15 years exercising an irresponsible greed for data even for citizens who are under no suspicion, things might be different.