DoJ: Apple 'deliberately raised technological barriers' in San Bernardino iPhone case

The U.S. Justice Department fired back at Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) in the high-profile San Bernardino shooting case, saying the iPhone vendor's claims about privacy and encryption are false and that it deliberately raised technological barriers to prevent law enforcement officials from breaking into the device.

Apple is appealing a California judge's order to unlock an iPhone 5c belonging to one of the killers involved in December's mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. CEO Tim Cook last month posted a public letter defying the FBI's request to unlock the phone, saying the order "has implications far beyond the legal case at hand" and that creating a "back door" to its devices would enable criminals and governments to violate its customers' privacy.

"The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone," Cook wrote. "But that's simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices."

But prosecutors took issue with those claims in the filing, calling them "a diversion."

"Apple desperately wants -- desperately needs -- this case not to be 'about one isolated iPhone,'" prosecutors claimed in the filing. "This case… is about specific facts, not broad generalities. Here, Apple deliberately raised technological barriers that now stand between a lawful warrant and an iPhone containing evidence related to the terrorist mass murder of 14 Americans. Apple alone can remove those barriers so that the FBI can search the phone, and it can do so without undue burden."

Prosecutors also claimed Apple has been willing to share customers' information with China when it helped the company gain access to new users.

"For example, according to Apple's own data, China demanded information from Apple regarding over 4,000 iPhones in the first half of 2015, and Apple produced data 74 percent of the time," according to the filing. "Apple appears to have made special accommodations in China as well: for example, moving Chinese user data to Chinese government servers, and installing a different Wi-Fi protocol for Chinese iPhones…. Such accommodations provide Apple with access to a huge, and growing, market."

Apple earlier this month lobbied Congress to step in and decide the issues at stake in its battles with the FBI, taking the matter out of the courts' hands. It has also indicated it will take the fight to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

For more:
- see this U.S. Attorney's court filing

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