On Tuesday, Apple will face the first major hearing in the San Bernardino iPhone case, and new details suggest the company will be speaking directly to the security issues involved. The FBI has requested an evidentiary hearing, which means the court will hear testimony from witnesses on both sides.
Those witnesses will include Eric Neuenschwander, Apple's head of product security and privacy, who can speak to the company's security measures and the feasibility of the government's proposed system. Neuenschwander filed a declaration to the court on Tuesday, which argued the government's order would potentially endanger the Trusted Platform Module system used throughout the industry, including specific systems built by Tesla and Microsoft.
Neuenschwander also argued the existence of GovtOS could impact the personal safety of Apple employees. "Those employees, if identified, could themselves become targets of retaliation, coercion, or similar threats by bad actors seeking to obtain and use GovtOS for nefarious purposes," he wrote. "I understand that such risks are why intelligence agencies often classify the names and employment of individuals with access to highly sensitive data and information."
"Those employees... could themselves become targets of retaliation, coercion, or similar threats."
On a call with reporters today, Apple attorneys said the company's arguments at the Tuesday hearing would focus on the statutory limits of the All Writs Act, rather than any errors the government may have made in resetting the iCloud account associated with the phone in question. The hearing is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, March 22nd at 1PM PT.
Apple has raised a number of legal objections the court order, which would compel the company to weaken security protections on a phone linked to the San Bernardino attack, allowing FBI agents to access data stored on the phone. The government has vigorously defended the legality order, arguing investigators have no other way to access the phone, and such compulsion is justified by the All Writs Act. "The government and the community need to know what is on the terrorist’s phone," prosecutors argued in a recent filing, "and the government needs Apple’s assistance to find out."
Tuesday's hearing will be the first time the two sides face off in court, giving new insight into which arguments find favor with the judge. It also comes just one day after a much-anticipated product announcement in Cupertino, where Tim Cook is expected to unveil a smaller version of the iPhone and address the company's legal fight.