IPhone Backdoors Would Pose a Threat, French Privacy Chief Warns

Plot Thickens in Apple vs. FBI Privacy Battle
  • Creating tools to get to phone data would threaten privacy
  • Lawmakers cleared bill that could force Apple to unlock phone

One of Europe’s top data privacy watchdogs sided with Apple Inc. and other technology firms opposing calls from security services for “backdoors” to gadgets such as iPhones and tablets to help them fight terrorists.

It “could create a free pass” for malevolent groups such as cyber-criminals, Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head of France’s data privacy authority CNIL, told journalists at a press conference in Paris Friday. “The consequence could be the weakening of people’s personal security.”

The U.S. dropped a legal case against Apple last month after it succeeded in accessing the data on an iPhone 5c used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who with his wife carried out the deadly December attack in San Bernardino, California. The question of whether technology companies such as Apple can be forced to unlock their phones remains an issue in France, where lawmakers backed a plan to impose penalties including jail time on technology executives who deny access to encrypted data during a terrorist investigation.

“There are many other ways to obtain information than by installing a backdoor,” said Falque-Pierrotin, who also heads a panel of privacy officials from across the 28-nation European Union.

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