FBI Must Spill the Beans on the Cost of Unlocking the San Bernardino iPhone – Court Filing

Rafia Shaikh
FBI iphone apple
And Yes, It Was an iPhone

At least three organizations want to know exactly how much the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) spent to unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

FBI, time to share the real details

Media organizations, including the Associated Press, Vice Media LLC and USA Today-owner Gannett, submitted court filings on Monday to force the government to reveal how much it paid to get the iPhone 5c unlocked.

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The news organizations said in the filing that they aren't seeking any information that could put national security at risk. They stressed that there is “no adequate justification” to continue to withhold the information on how much it paid for the tool or the identity of the vendor responsible for designing that iOS security circumvention tool.

 “While it is undisputed that the vendor developed the iPhone access tool, the government has identified no rational reason why knowing the vendor’s identity is linked in any way to the substance of the tool.”

The FBI has refrained from disclosing the names of security firm or individuals who assisted the agency in unlocking the notorious iPhone. At the time, though the FBI Director James Comey dropped a hint saying the cost was more than what he would make for the duration of his job, roughly over $1.3 million.

Before going for third-party security vendors to crack open the iPhone, Apple was ordered to help the agency in unlocking the device, leading to a huge backlash from consumers, privacy advocates and tech firms who said the agency cannot force a company to weaken its own security measures.

These three organizations had sued the FBI in September for the information, following which the agency released some heavily redacted documents last month. The cost and vendor details remained redacted too, leading to Monday's filing.

According to the legal team representing the news outlets, there's no "rational reason" why this information would put national security at risk, and in fact, it would enable the public to learn about a tool that could potentially compromise the security of Americans.

"Release of this information goes to the very heart of the Freedom of Information Act’s purpose, allowing the public to assess government activity - here, the decision to pay public funds to an outside entity in possession of a tool that can compromise the digital security of millions of Americans," the lawyers said.

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