Australian Officials Say Apple Should Unlock Phones In San Bernardino Investigation

18/02/2016 3:33 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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KENA BETANCUR via Getty Images
People walk outside the Apple store on the Fifth Avenue in New York on February 17, 2016. Apple's challenge of a court order to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino killers opens up a new front in the long-running battle between technology companies and the government over encryption. / AFP / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Attorney-General George Brandis and a government e-safety commissioner have backed calls for Apple to allow access to the phones of the accused San Bernardino shooters.

The FBI asked the tech giant to build a new version of the iOS operating system, that would allow access to data stored on an iPhone, to aid their investigation into the Californian shooting in December 2015. Apple has refused, releasing a statement saying that "In the wrong hands, this software -- which does not exist today -- would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

"Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor."

According to the ABC, federal attorney-general George Brandis has supported calls for Apple to give access to the phones.

"We would expect, as in Australia, that all orders of courts should be obeyed by any party which is the subject of a lawful order by a court," Brandis said, ABC News reports.

"I think it shows how important it is that ISPs do cooperate with law enforcement agencies in facilitating and cooperating with proper investigations into serious crime.

"Frankly, if data is encrypted in a way that is entirely inaccessible, without the cooperation of the ISP or the maker of the device, then that makes inaccessible relevant investigative information that would hitherto have been accessible and that's a problem for law enforcement."

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George Brandis says Apple should comply with FBI requests

The government's Children's eSafety Commissioner, Alastair MacGibbon, also supported the call, saying the request to Apple was "reasonable".

The Greens Communications spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam urged Brandis to publicly oppose calls for Apple to give access to the phones, calling the FBI's request "extraordinarily reckless".

"There are millions of iOS devices in use in Australia. This proposal would put every single one of those users at risk of identity theft," Ludlam said.

"The Attorney-General’s department recently estimated that identity theft costs Australia $1.6 billion every year, and that number is growing. Forcing providers to weaken encryption is effectively an identity theft stimulus package.

"We strongly urge Attorney-General George Brandis to help keep millions of Australian smartphone users safe, and write to his US counterparts to urge them to reconsider the request to break a technology we all depend on."

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