Lessons for everyone from Apple vs the FBI
This question was answered on February 24, 2016. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
The battle between the FBI and Apple over the locked phone that was used by a deceased terrorist has generated a lot of very important questions.
This legal positioning around this single phone is really a proxy for the long running privacy vs security battle between law enforcement and technology companies.
The outcome of this battle will have an impact on all of us in some form, but the real lesson to be learned from this public chess match has little to do with the on-going privacy implications.
If the FBI is having to go to these lengths to try to access the information on an iPhone, what might your family be faced with should you suddenly pass away?
Apple does not store the lock code and without it, accessing the information on a device becomes extremely complex, if not impossible.
It’s not a pleasant thing to ponder, but think about how many digital assets we all have these days.
Apple has spent an enormous amount of energy to secure our devices from unauthorized users, as this battle is clearly showing, but it could include your family after you pass.
Internet forums are filled with pleas for help after a loved one passes away and the family can’t get access important information on an iPhone; we routinely see this request in our data recovery labs as well.
In most cases, accessing the user’s iCloud account is the best way to get to most of the desired content, but many people have the auto-sync turned off for one reason or another.
The most common reasons that we see are that the user exceeded the 5GB free storage limit and rather than pay for more storage, they elected to turn off iCloud backups or they never set it up in the first place.
For tech savvy folks, there are a number of ways to avoid having to pay Apple for more storage, but for most people, paying the 99 cents per month for 50GBs of storage is a pretty good option.
One of the other ways to gain access to the contents of a locked iPhone is through a computer that was previously setup as a ‘trusted computer’, but most of the people asking us for help never did that either.
It turns out a large number of iPhone users never think about backing up what is on the phone and simply use it as a stand-alone device.
Some think that providing Apple with a death certificate will help, but it won’t. They don’t store the lock code anywhere and when it comes to the iCloud account, this clause in the Terms and Conditions spells out what will happen:
Section IV - D. No Right of Survivorship
Unless otherwise required by law, You agree that your Account is non-transferable and that any rights to your Apple ID or Content within your Account terminate upon your death. Upon receipt of a copy of a death certificate your Account may be terminated and all Content within your Account deleted.
Hopefully this different perspective of the Apple Vs FBI battle gets you thinking a little more about all your digital assets as it pertains to a ‘succession plan’ for your family.
(Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/iphonedigital)
About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on February 24, 2016