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US gov't, Apple at odds again over terrorist's iPhone

US APPLE | 14 de enero de 2020

San Francisco, Jan 14 (efe-epa).- The US government and Apple on Tuesday publicly put on display their ongoing dispute over the alleged refusal of the tech giant to help federal investigators gain access to the iPhones of a terrorist, now dead, who last month killed three people on a military base in Florida.

Saudi air force member Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, 21, who was in the US taking training courses at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, on Dec. 6, 2019, opened fire on other students there, killing three Americans, before being shot to death by police.

The Department of Justice found two iPhones linked to Alshamrani - who is accused of committing an act of terrorism - and has been trying to access them to obtain more information or evidence about the attack, but it said in a public letter signed by Attorney General William Barr that Apple had provided no "substantive assistance" in the matter.

"This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence" after receiving permission to do so from the courts on the basis of probable cause, Barr said at a news conference.

The AG went on to call on Apple and other tech firms to help US authorities find a solution that will help law enforcement to protect the lives of Americans and prevent future attacks.

However, the firm headed by Tim Cook responded that "Today, law enforcement has access to more data than ever before in history, so Americans do not have to choose between weakening encryption and solving investigations," and adding that "We feel strongly encryption is vital to protecting our country and our users' data."

The tech giant based in Cupertino, California, said that it had provided investigators with "gigabytes of information" linked to the iCloud, account information and transactional data on several accounts.

This episode recalls the refusal of Apple to provide the FBI with the security code to unblock an iPhone used by one of the authors of a mass shooting in December 2015 in San Bernardino, California, in which 14 people died and 22 were wounded.

In that case, authorities finally managed to extract information from the smartphone without Apple's help, but that did not prevent a bitter exchange of complaints between the government and the firm, which has made user privacy one of its key standards.

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