EFF in the News
Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said it was "perhaps a long shot" that the government might disclose the method under the Vulnerabilities Equities Process.
"Given the profile of this case, it is an important test for the government's disclosure policy and whether it is willing to provide more transparency about how it goes about weighing disclosure against intelligence or law enforcement uses of zero days," Crocker told Ars.
Electronic Frontier Foundation is "disappointed ... that Netflix didn't explain this earlier, since we believe that all companies should be clear and transparent with their customers about what to expect when it comes to the services they subscribe to," said Jeremy Gillula, staff technologist at the at privacy-rights organization.
Earlier this month, digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a strongly worded amicus brief arguing that the warrant used by the FBI for its use of malware to identify visitors of a dark web child pornography site was “unconstitutional,” and qualified as a broad, “general warrant.”
Electronic Frontier Foundation executive director Cindy Cohn explains why Apple's strong standpoint could be its winning ticket, even if the FBI cracks the iPhone via third-party help.
"The concern is the FBI is trying to shift the ground by saying you can build a lock as strongly as you want so long as you also build us a pick to unlock it," Cohn said. She notes that this option creates much more danger than the FBI unlocking the iPhone unassisted by Apple.
What little we do know about the vulnerabilities equities policy is because the Electronic Frontier Foundation, seeking transparency, sued the NSA and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
After a legal battle more than a year long, the EFF got a redacted document that vaguely describes the policy.
"We need more transparency over how the policy works. It took a lot for us to know anything about it," said Andrew Crocker, the EFF staff attorney who led the fight.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the FBI could come back to court in a few weeks and try again, or look for another test case with which to set a legal precedent.
“The F.B.I. and D.O.J. often pursue these kinds of cases under seal, and the public doesn’t know about them at all,” said Andrew Crocker, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights organization. Mr. Crocker said the “public nature” of this case allowed more people to be involved.
Nate Cardozo with the Electronic Frontier Foundation: "This is a victory for Apple."
“The equities process is supposed to apply to anytime the government discovers, learns of, buys or uses vulnerabilities of any kind," said Nate Cardozo, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “If it’s anything where they’re attacking the phone in software, it would be subject to the equities review."
In the end, requiring that all software be breakable would be totally ineffective because it could easily be downloaded from outside the United States, said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a pro-privacy non-profit based in San Francisco.
“Even if you did mandate that Apple and Google and others had to build in backdoors, nothing would stop the bad guys from just buying Chinese or Swiss or Brazilian devices that don’t have those backdoors,” he said.
The U.S. government and the FBI have in past years attempted to get Congress to pass legislation that would require companies to build backdoors into their electronic devices. None have become law.
Several members of Congress are currently working on new versions of such legislation. Should any of them pass, EFF and other pro-privacy groups are ready.
"We would gleefully file a pre-enforcement challenge — and I think we would win,” said Cardozo.