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Monday, 09 January 2017 10:06

iPhone stoush: FBI hides identity of firm that obtained data Featured

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Exactly who managed to obtain access to the data on an iPhone 5C, the centre of a row between Apple and the FBI last year, is unlikely to be known after the agency released 100 pages of documents related to the case but with most of the information redacted.

The phone in question was being used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of two terrorists involved in shootings in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015. The FBI demanded that Apple unlock the phone and, when the company refused, attempted to get the courts to force Apple to do so.

However, before the case could come up for hearing, the FBI ended the stoush, announcing that it had been able to obtain the data by using the services of a third party.

That third party was speculated to be the Israeli company Cellebrite and US government records showed that the FBI had made payments of US$15,278.02 to the firm on 21 March 2016.

But in the documents released last week, in response to a federal lawsuit against the FBI filed by The Associated Press, Vice Media and the parent company of USA Today, the identity of the firm that obtained the data for the FBI was redacted.

So too was the amount paid for the work. About the only additional detail available in the documents was the fact that the FBI had signed a nondisclosure agreement with the company.

The other detail that emerged was that three companies had contacted the FBI to offer their services to obtain the data on the phone, but none could do it fast enough to satisfy the FBI's needs.

The lawsuit filed by the three media organisations claimed there was no legal basis to withhold the information.

It also said the public had a right to know whether the FBI's chosen vendor had proper security measures in place and would act only in the public interest.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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