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Can The Government Actually Break Into Your iPhone?

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Can The Government Actually Break Into Your iPhone?

We’ve been riveted to the story this week about the FBI demanding Apple give them a backdoor to the iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters.  It’s a fascinating legal scenario, but it’s got us thinking about the current situation and how phones and other data can be used against clients.

In case you haven’t been following, the FBI has been unable to break the encryption on the iPhone and iCloud service that would allow them to access the data both on the phone and data that was deleted. They asked Apple to create a “backdoor” that would allow them to bypass the encryption key and access this data. Apple CEO Tim Cook told the FBI they would do no such thing, since that negates the whole concept of encryption, and is a slippery slope to the erosion of personal privacy.

The case, while fascinating as a possible legal precedent, has us thinking about how this affects our clients.

If you’ve been in an accident, you’d better believe the insurance company is going to want to see your cell phone records. They want to see whether or not you were texting at the time of the accident. This is perfectly legal, and happens often. Where things get murky is when you’re using iMessageHangoutsWhatsApp, or another messaging service that is data-only, and not through your wireless provider. Whether or not an insurance company can demand those records is not something that has been clearly defined. This will likely change soon.

Another area our clients should be concerned about is social media. After an accident, insurance companies will check your FacebookInstagram, and Twitter accounts. This is to see if you’re claiming a severe injury while still posting photos of you on waterslides and mountain climbing. If your page is public, that’s obviously fair game. What if your page is private? That remains to be seen, and is another legal area that’s currently taking shape.

What is interesting, that many people don’t know, is that your lawyer absolutely cannot advise you to delete anything. They cannot tell you to delete cell phone pictures, text messages, or photos and posts on social media. This is called tampering with evidence and could land your attorney in jail — no, seriously. They might advise you to make your Facebook or Twitter pages private, but advising you to delete things is spectacularly illegal.

Whether or not anyone can “break into” your smartphone is what’s currently unfolding. The law is pretty foggy on this, since most of the technology in question didn’t exist when the laws were written.

As Apple and the FBI go back and forth on this, remember that your cell phone is not always private. Some parts of it can be used against you, while others cannot.  From a legal standpoint, the case is fascinating and we’re very interested to see where it’s going.  In the meantime, you should consult your attorney if you are unsure about your privacy.

Being injured in an accident can create a wide variety of issues. It’s important to speak with an attorney who can guide you through this process. Use our form below to schedule your free consultation and learn about your rights.

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