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Why the Postponed FBI Hearing Isn't a Win for Apple

March 22, 2016 00:00 AM UTC
- Updated September 02, 2020 11:36 AM UTC

Even though the FBI is using a third party to unlock the iPhone

ANDREW NUSCA: The FBI has postponed its hearing about encryption at the 11th hour. Robert, is this a victory for Apple? ROBERT HACKETT: You know, people have celebrated too early. I don't think this is a victory for Apple. ANDREW NUSCA: Huh. ROBERT HACKETT: What this tells me is the FBI, they have found an alternate method to potentially break into this phone that was once used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. Now the iPhone in your pocket, the one in my pocket, perhaps it's not as secure as we thought it was. That's troubling to me. There's this entity that can crack into it. ANDREW NUSCA: This is a ridiculous suggestion, though. I mean, the security that you have in your iPhone is the best we can get right now. It's the best any of us can expect, whether or not we're Apple customers. And then on top of that, Apple is definitely a leader in security. And it's also a leader in making sure it pulls up the rear, make sure that all of its users are using a most up-to-date operating system. So honestly, if you look at this battle, all I take from it is Apple and the FBI went toe to toe, eyeball to eyeball, and the FBI blinked. How is that not a victory? ROBERT HACKETT: It's a short-term victory. Nothing is stopping the FBI from taking up a case just like this again in the future. It may not be against Apple. Maybe it'll be against Whatsapp or another tech company. But that future, that is a distinct possibility. ANDREW NUSCA: But there's a lot that's different this time. The FBI understands what the implications are across the industry, right? Google's Sundar Pichai, Microsoft's Brad Smith, even Whatsapp's Jan Koum all came out in support of Apple. If the FBI decides to hold another hearing on an issue like this, it's got more than half the tech industry against it. ROBERT HACKETT: Look, the FBI hand-selected this case because it involved a mass shooting on American soil. They wanted to garner public sympathy about this. It turned out that Americans were pretty split between supporting Apple and supporting the Department of Justice. But in the future when the FBI brings another case to the courts like this, which I assure you they will, it's going to be, once again, on their terms. They're going to have learned from this experience. ANDREW NUSCA: That is a fair point. For one show you should never postpone watching, come to for more Tech Debate.