Cupertino – Apple In. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has rejected a court order to let the FBI see the information sent via iMessage arguing its encryption system do not allow them to collaborate with the federal agency.

As stated in a New York Times report, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI have long warned about their intentions to take Apple to court, after the big company rebuffed their requests to let them get their hands on Apple’s customer data. The federal investigators tried to intercept several messages sent between two suspects of illegal drug and gun schemes.

Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook testifies before a Senate subcommittee about the company's offshore tax policies on May 21, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook testifies before a Senate subcommittee about the company’s offshore tax policies on May 21, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

“Apple has no way to decrypt iMessage and FaceTime data when it’s in transit between devices,” the company writes in its website. “So unlike other companies’ messaging services, Apple doesn’t scan your communications, and we wouldn’t be able to comply with a wiretap order even if we wanted to. While we do back up iMessage and SMS messages for your convenience using iCloud Backup, you can turn it off whenever you want. And we don’t store FaceTime calls on any servers.”

Apple and other companies like Microsoft, use “end-to-end encryption”, which is a digital system of uninterrupted protection of data travelling between two communicating parties. It cannot be intercepted or read by any other entity except the ones using the service. This system is used to prevent internet providers or application service providers from seizing communication content.

Two sides of the coin

After former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden revealed in its surveillance programs that the US government had intercepted tens of thousands of domestic e-mail and instant-messaging conversations due to their counterterrorism strategy, the big tech companies – like Apple, Microsoft and Google-, have strengthened their encryption system in the efforts to protect their customer’s privacy.

In spite of the fact that the US government is considered to be reckless in its way to investigate people when they have both access and legitimate reasons, Obama’s administration has been trying to work with these companies on proposals that would give investigators some type of guarantee intervention to customer data in particular cases, in order to monitor potential security threats.

Federal officials have confronted Apple saying that their unwillingness to cooperate could lead to a “going dark” problem in which terrorists and criminals will be able to safe operate through their communication systems without being caught, which eventually could lead to more deaths.

Technology companies have pushed back, and according to some reports, they are winning the fight. What they argue is that the requirements the federal investigators are asking for would weaken encryption, lower security standards and leave customers exposed to cyber spies and criminals.

Microsoft’s battle

Apple is not the only company involved in the battle against the US government data control. Microsoft was taken to court for not allowing the federal investigators to hand over suspected criminal’s data stored on its servers in Dublin, Ireland.

The risk of Microsoft losing this battle extends to several US citizens, because it means that foreign countries, like China and Russia, could also get their hands over data stored in servers in the United States. In fact, some believe that Chinese firms are already planning to build facilities that would store electronic communications data.

“Clearly, if the U.S. government wins, the door is open for other governments to reach into data centers in the U.S.,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, said in a recent interview according to the Times.

Source: The New York Times