Feds v. Apple case sails into unchartered legal waters

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NEW YORK CITY -- Prior to Wednesday, not many people knew what encryption on their iPhone meant, so PIX11 News asked Zachary Goldman, the executive director of the center of law and security at NYU Law School and a co-founder NYU Center for Cyber Security, to provide some perspective.

"Encryption is a way of protecting data from the people you don't want to see it."

Simple as it may sound, it also has led to arguably the most complex case the technological sector has ever been connected to, evident by a lengthy detailed letter released by Apple CEO Tim Cook to its customers detailing the desire of the federal government to put the security of its customers at risk.

Cook writing in one part, "The FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software -- which does not exist today --would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone's physical possession."

Goldman says the illustrates challenges with an area of law that is in its infancy stages.

"This kind of problem shows the way in which legal issues and technical issues are converging in the 21st century economy."

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, a huge proponent of technology and law enforcement, spoke to Tuesday night's ruling by a California judge directing Apple to work with the FBI to create software to unlock the iPhone used in the San Bernadino rampage.

"Going forward we are increasingly blind for terrorism purposes and for general law enforcement purposes with he new devices and the continuing effort to make them even more secure against even court orders authorizing law enforcement to have access."

Fernando Pinguelo is an attorney that specializes in cyber law. When asked were his case stood on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of new legal ground, Pinguelo quickly responded, "I think this is close to a 10. absolutely."

Pinguelo met with PIX11 News outside of the famed Apple store along Fifth Avenue. When asked about the one component that is not a party in the case but in reality, according to Apple is the biggest one vulnerable -- their loyal customers, Pinguelo had the following assessment.

"Well that is going to be Apple's challenge," Pinguelo said. "They are going to have to demonstrate that what the government is tying to do is beyond what scope of what the law was originally intended to do which is to provide technical assistance. It a going to come down to what that means. What does technical assistance. Does it mean going out of your way to reinvent your technology or does it mean to help and make your equipment and facilities available?"