One of the more compelling institutional cage matches in the past few years, Apple vs. the FBI, ended in anticlimax March 28. The FBI had been asking for Apple’s help in accessing data on an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino terrorists. Apple had been asking the FBI to kindly back the hell up, because it felt (with some justification) that developing a tool to get into one iPhone would compromise the security of all iPhones. The situation was supposed to come to a boil in court March 22 but didn’t because the FBI announced that it was working with an outside firm to get into the phone without Apple’s help. The agency announced that it had finally succeeded, and nixed the suit.
It’s hard to call this one for either side. The FBI got its data, whatever it was–we still don’t know. Apple got to stick to its principles–outlined by CEO Tim Cook in a recent TIME cover story. Apple would’ve liked to take the issue to Congress to clarify the legal landscape; it didn’t get that. The FBI didn’t get to set the legal precedents it sought either.
The Justice Department made it clear, in a statement, that this isn’t over, that this was just Round 1, and that the next time it gets stuck with a phone full of evidence, it’ll be right back on Apple’s doorstep. Apple made it clear in a statement that its position remained unchanged. Terrorists worldwide declined to issue a statement, but they were undoubtedly watching this all unfold. Hopefully they feel a little less safe, so at least we can agree on who lost.
This appears in the April 11, 2016 issue of TIME.
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