UN human rights chief warns of worldwide privacy implications of Apple-FBI case

A decision against Apple would be a gift to authoritarian regimes, commissioner says

A ruling ordering Apple to help the FBI access the iPhone of San Bernardino mass shooter Syed Rizwan Farook could make it impossible for the company or any other major international IT vendor to safeguard users' privacy anywhere in the world, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Friday.

A decision against Apple would be "potentially a gift to authoritarian regimes, as well as to criminal hackers,” Zeid said. Authorities in other countries have already made efforts to force IT and communications companies such as Google and BlackBerry to expose their customers to mass surveillance, he added.

Zeid's statement is a shot in the arm for Apple's appeal in the case. A magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Eastern Division, has ordered Apple to provide technical assistance, including possibly signed software, to help the FBI use brute force to crack the passcode of the iPhone 5c used by Farook  in the San Bernardino, California, attack on Dec. 2, without triggering an auto-erase feature.

A number of U.S. tech companies and civil rights groups including Facebook, Microsoft and Google on Thursday filed briefs in support of Apple in the California court.

The opinion of the commissioner, which carries considerable weight worldwide, is at best a recommendation and has no direct bearing on the proceedings of the court. It is, however, likely to give stimulus to growing opposition to the FBI's effort to force Apple to deliver technology to help crack the iPhone -- a move that would set a bad precedent and be "too dangerous to do," according to the company.

The FBI is concerned that without a workaround from Apple it could accidentally erase data from the phone, which runs iOS 9. But Apple holds that the FBI is asking it to make and install a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features.

Apple CEO Tim Cook warned that in the wrong hands this software, which does not exist today, would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in anyone's physical possession.

Zeid said that the FBI deserves everyone’s full support in its investigation into the attack, which led to the death of 14 persons. But there are many ways to investigate whether or not the killers had accomplices "besides forcing Apple to create software to undermine the security features of their own phones," he added.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags applefbi

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?