Photographer: Xaume Olleros/Bloomberg

Apple-FBI Case Is `Pandora's Box' Against Human Rights, UN Says

  • UN high commissioner urges U.S. authorities to great caution
  • Terrorist case can be investigated without phone unlocking: UN

What U.S. courts decide about Apple Inc.’s iPhone encryption risks hurting millions of people’s digital, physical and financial security, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights announced in a statement Friday, adding his voice to those opposing a judge’s order to unlock the phone of a dead terrorist.

While the government wants Apple to write bespoke software that would help unlock an iPhone to aid a criminal investigation, there are other ways to advance the case at hand without undermining the phones’ security features, the UN’s Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said. Governments, security forces and criminals are among groups that could abuse a security flaw if there is one, he said.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein

Photographer: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

“Authorities risk unlocking a Pandora’s Box,” Al-Hussein said in the statement. “This is not just about one case and one company in one country. It will have tremendous ramifications.”

The UN’s support adds to that of technology giants from Microsoft Corp. to Google that have set aside rivalries to back the maker of the iPhone. Meanwhile law enforcement groups seeking to join the case said their ability to extract data from evidence is critical to solving crimes and protecting the public.

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