Legal misrepresentation: Getting the iPhone unlocking case all wrong


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If you didn’t enjoy the Apple/core pun the first 5,000 times, you’ll surely enjoy it the 5,001st time.

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, L. Gordon Crovitz decries “Apple’s Rotten Core.” (Tip o’ the antlers to @JonyIveParody.)

Surely the entire New Haven Line must have erupted in polite golf clapping somewhere around New Rochelle upon reading that.

Very droll, mmmyes, yes. Mmmmm.

CEO Tim Cook ’s test case for Apple is rotten to the core.

Even better the 5,002nd time.

He claimed it was too “burdensome” for Apple to help unlock the iPhone of Islamic terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, who with his wife killed 14 people and wounded 22 in San Bernardino, Calif., in December.

Yes, surely that is the entirety of Cook’s argument, that it’s too much trouble. When you put it that way — i.e. when you take all the really important parts out — it does seem ridiculous, does it not? Who could reasonably agree with Cook now?

The FBI needs Apple to disarm the feature that erases the content of iPhones on the 10th wrong password so that agents can gain access to the phone to learn if there are other sleeper cells or plots.

Why, they could be in your closets right now. The only way to know is to unlock this phone. And, well, all the other phones the FBI wants unlocked. But really it’s just this one phone. And maybe almost a dozen or more.

Now, care for a little fire, Scarecrow?

When Apple refused the court order, Apple defenders claimed it was impossible to unlock the phone.

Seriously, did even one person say this? Certainly no one who knew anything about iPhones or security or coding or making definitive statements in the English language.

The Wall Street Journal constructs only the finest of straw men and lovingly lights them on fire with artisanal matches hand -crafted by Bolivian woodworkers.

For the world’s most valuable company, with annual revenues above $200 billion, it’s a trivial cost…

Cost is really not the issue. Unless you’re talking about the cost in security, privacy and civil liberties in which case it is exactly the issue.

Apple at first claimed that this work would affect millions of customers. Now its engineers admit code can apply to a specific iPhone.

There is, of course, no citation there because when you’re trying to deflate the crux of someone’s argument you do it in one throwaway line without providing any proof whatsoever. It is now irrefutable! Look for politicians and overzealous district attorneys to now quote the Wall Street Journal saying Apple said that.

Apple, meanwhile, continues to state exactly the opposite. And it kinda seems like Apple would know a little better than Crovitz.

…Apple said compliance would “substantially tarnish the Apple brand,” as if branding were above the law.

How does this be-suited scold not understand that this argument is about what the law actually is? Apple believes this request is unconstitutional. You remember the Constitution, right? That’s the document you keep trying to shove into the shredder even when you just happen to walk past muslins in Bed, Bath and Beyond.

There’s a way out of the impasse: Apple could agree to help unlock Farook’s iPhone and focus its legal arguments on the New York case, which is less urgent…

“Urgent.” This is apparently now “urgent”. We have no idea what, if anything, is on this terrorist’s work iPhone that’s in any way different than the older iCloud backups the FBI already has, but whatever it is we need it urgently. For fans of terrorism hysteria like Crovitz, the vapors is more a congenital defect than a temporary “case”.

Microsoft ’s Bill Gates last week observed that the issue in the Apple case is “no different than ‘Should anybody ever have been able to tell the phone company to get information? Should anybody be able to get at bank records?’ ”

Comments that Gates subsequently walked back. Microsoft, as well as numerous other tech companies, has come out in support of Apple. But, sure, go ahead and quote Gates to make it seem like it’s Apple against everyone else.

There’s a tendency in this era of rapid digital innovation to assume that our technologies raise unique issues.

Clearly they don’t! Psh! Why, even a complete misunderstanding of them augmented by deliberate obtuseness and unsupported statements will lead one to understand they are not unique!

TechDirt’s Mike Masnick noted back in November of 2014:

Crovitz is just totally ignorant of what he's writing about.

Oh, OK, phew. So it’s not just the Macalope who noticed that. And Crovitz is still completely ignorant of the same issue.

But mobile phones are best considered the latest evolution in the communications revolution that began with the telegraph…

What are modern smartphones if not long lengths of physical wire that carry electric impulses in a series of dots and dashes across this great nation faster than a horse-borne man is capable of galloping?

This is like watching a 19th century stage production called “Drunk Future”.

“Tha Internet will be like… [burp] a big funnel connected to a tube that you yell into… an’ allll these other people are yelling into it too, you see…”

Actually… actually, that’s pretty close. Closer than Crovitz’s understanding of this case, anyway.

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