As we explained before, the All Writs Act is not a backdoor to bypass other laws. The government cannot impose an unreasonable burden on Apple, and it cannot violate the Constitution. If the government truly wanted Apple to decrypt a phone running iOS 8 or later, it would blow past these boundaries. First, unless Apple is lying about how its system is engineered, it simply can’t grant access to the data on a locked phone—not by reflashing the operating system, and not by pushing a backdoored software update—because it’s locked. That should be the end of it. But if Apple in fact has this capacity, or if the government instead tried to require it to prospectively reengineer the operating system on an unlocked device, All Writs is not the means to do so.
But I found this bit even more interesting:
What’s more, such an order would be unconstitutional. Code is speech, and forcing Apple to push backdoored updates would constitute “compelled speech” in violation of the First Amendment. It would raise Fourth and Fifth Amendment issues as well. Most important, Apple’s choice to offer device encryption controlled entirely by the user is both entirely legal and in line with the expert consensus on security best practices.
By making privacy a core part of their business, Apple may actually be protecting themselves from being forced into working for law enforcement. These are the tiny stones that will make up the future of technology and personal freedom.1
It’s worth remembering that while you generally can not be forced to incriminate yourself by divulging a password, you can be forced to give over your thumb print. ↩︎