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Latest Apple Victory vs. FBI Could Have Bigger Implications In The Real World

It’s no secret that we’ve been following the caseof Apple vs. the FBI pretty closely.

One one hand, it’s an interesting case from a legal standpoint, and will be a precedent for many more cases in the future. Yet, at the same time, we’re interested in what it means for you — our clients.

Things got interesting today, when a New York district court rejected the FBI’s motion that Apple be forced into unlocking an iPhone that belonged to a drug dealer. Based on a seriously old law called the All Writs Act — first passed in 1789 — the FBI argued Apple would have to provide a “backdoor” into the phone. The New York judge didn’t see it that way, leaving the FBI to contemplate their next move.

This has implications in a California case, where the FBI is demanding Apple help them break the encryption on a phone belonging to one of the terrorists who perpetrated the San Bernardino shootings.

While some call the rejection a victory for personal privacy, there’s an interesting issue when you apply this precedent to accident victims.

Currently, if you’re in an accident, you can request all sorts of things from the other party’s phone. Text messages and records of when they were sent are vital in car accident cases. Phone calls can place people at certain locations when accidents happen. 911 call recordings are important as a real-time record of an accident and the moments following.

Is that all gone now?

Of course, in a perfect world, the scales of justice will come to rest in perfect equilibrium. We’ll have our legal cake and legally eat it too, with everyone being happy. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world and there’s going to be imperfections in the system.

Where does the line get drawn? Are your 911 calls going to become private now? That’s not going to work too well when you have to prove fault in an accident.  Courts are already trying to figure out if iMessage and other similar platforms fall under the same umbrella as text messages.  What if those are taken away, and you’re hit by a texting driver? How will you prove your case?

Of course this case is a big victory for personal privacy. However, it behooves each of us to think long term, and consider how slippery the slope really is.

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