The FBI’s attempt to force Apple to unlock a phone is only the latest example of the state challenging fundamental freedoms

So the FBI has backed off – at least for the time being – in its bid to force Apple to write a crippled version of the iPhone operating system in order to enable the bureau to unlock the phone used by a terrorist. Last Tuesday government lawyers asked a judge to postpone the scheduled hearing because FBI investigators believe they may have found a way to hack the iPhone’s security without forcing Apple to help. The judge readily agreed, thereby putting on the back burner an epic confrontation between an irresistible force and an immovable object. If you wanted a case study that illustrates the challenges posed by digital technology for the modern state, then this battle between the FBI and Apple is it.

The story began on 2 December with an attack by two terrorists that left 14 people dead and 22 seriously injured at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. Four hours after the shooting, the two killers (a married couple) were shot dead by the police. The man – Syed Rizwan Farook – had an iPhone provided by his employers, which survived the raid.

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Read more at There’s always an excuse to hack into our lives | John Naughton

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