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FBI: It’s too early to tell if shooter’s iPhone contains useful data

by Killian Bell | April 6, 2016April 6, 2016 5:06 am PST

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One week after obtaining access to the iPhone 5c used by a San Bernardino gunman without Apple’s help, the FBI says “it’s simply too early” to say whether the device contains any useful information.

“We’re now doing an analysis of that data, as we would in any other type of criminal terrorism investigation,’’ said James Baker, the FBI’s general counsel, at a conference of the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

“That means we would follow logical leads,” Baker added — but as things stand, the agency doesn’t know if the iPhone used by Syed Farook contains data that could help with the investigation into the San Bernardino terrorist attack.

Once this has been determined, it will be up to the government to device whether it notifies the public, The Wall Street Journal reports. It will also need to decide whether it will share its hack with Apple, or other state and local law enforcement agencies.

There are hundreds of iPhones held by agencies across the U.S. that could contain information related to various criminal cases, but investigators are unable to gain access to thanks to Apple’s strong security measures.

The security vulnerability discovered by the FBI could deliver a way in, but if it is disclosed to Apple, law enforcement agencies wouldn’t be able to use it in the future, because the Cupertino company would almost certainly patch it.

For now, the Justice Department’s battle with Apple is on hold. However, if Apple does fix that vulnerability, the company will almost certainly see more requests from the FBI and other agencies in the future that could lead to another privacy fight.

Killian Bell

Killian Bell is a 20-something technology journalist based in a tiny town in England. He has an obsession with that little company in Cupertino...