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Good news for now: Court postpones hearing in Apple v. FBI

This statement was originally published on eff.org on 21 March 2016.

A magistrate in Riverside, CA has canceled a hearing that was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in the Apple v FBI case, at the FBI's request late Monday. The hearing was part of Apple's challenge to the FBI's demand that the company create a new version of its iOS, which would include a backdoor to allow easier access to a locked iPhone involved in the FBI's investigation into the 2015 San Bernardino shootings.

The FBI told the court that an “outside party” demonstrated a potential method for accessing the data on the phone, and asked for time to test this method and report back. This is good news. For now, the government is backing off its demand that Apple build a tool that will compromise the security of millions, contradicts Apple's own beliefs, and is unsafe and unconstitutional.

This may be more than just a routine extension of time. The FBI's motion acknowledges that it may have other avenues to pursue in accessing the data on the phone, something that it must do under the law. It could also provide a way for the FBI to get out of a very public battle it provoked over an extremely contentious issue: how and when tech companies can be forced to rewrite their software to facilitate surveillance.

This case was always about more than access to a single phone. It was an attempt to set a legal precedent that requires any company to undermine their users' security at the FBI's request. Security is vital to protect the information on your phone, and the FBI should work to enhance user security, not undermine it.

It's very clear that public engagement on this issue was key to helping move this from a fight just between Apple and the government to one where all of us know that our security is at stake. The world is watching. We extend our deepest appreciation to all the friends of EFF who spoke out on this issue.

But remember: this isn't over. The FBI could come back to the court in a few weeks and try again to force Apple to write software that breaks the security on our iPhones. It's also possible that the FBI will look for another test case it can use to create a legal precedent.

Regardless of the courtroom battles ahead, FBI will undoubtedly continue its efforts in Congress. For years, the FBI has been decrying what they see as a “going dark” problem -- the FBI initiative to undermine encryption. Several members of Congress, led by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Richard Burr, continue to threaten to rush through legislation that would mandate backdoors in our technology or otherwise force tech companies to ensure FBI's access to everyone's communications. We're also gearing up for a major battle over backdoor legislation in states like California and are worried about pressure that other technology companies may be facing, like WhatsApp.

Above all, we're committed to continuing to defend user rights to strong security, including strong encryption.

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