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Apple vs. FBI: Is your cell phone privacy at stake?

Apple vs. FBI: Is you're cell phone privacy at stake?
Apple vs. FBI: Is you're cell phone privacy at stake?
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(KUTV) A major electronic security battle is brewing between Apple and the FBI over a cell phone belonging to one of the shooters in the terrorist attacks at a San Bernardino health facility in December.

The FBI says it needs the smartphone and computer giant to hack into the iPhone so it can try and gather more key evidence behind the shooting. But Apple is refusing to do it, in the name of privacy.

Here's the issue: Every iPhone has an optional "auto erase" feature that erases the device if too many incorrect passwords are attempted. The FBI says Apple needs to figure out a way to disable that feature so investigators can attempt an unlimited number of pass codes in order to unlock the phone. The FBI believes there could be critical information on that phone.

In an online letter to its customers, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

The U.S, government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the i-Phone.

"I think it's great that Apple is pushing back," said Pete Ashdown, to 2News. Ashdown is the President and CEO of XMission, a high speed internet company. "This has the potential of opening a Pandora's box, The back door can be used by criminals to steal identities."

University of Utah law professor Amos Guiora, at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, says, "I understand both sides [of the argument]."

Guiora teaches national security and is writing a book on cyber security. He also served in the Israeli defense force. That's why he says he understands the FBI's point of view.

"They are connecting the dots, who were they in contact with, who did they call, who called them, who were they speaking with."

At the same time, he sees why Apple is going against the court order. "I understand Apple's need to protect the Apple brand and insure all of us like me who use Apple products that they will protect me against government intrusion."

Regardless of the outcome, Guiora says this case will set a major precedent in the world of electronic privacy.

"One could literally write a book about this incident, because its ramifications go far beyond this particular cell phone and this particular couple," said Guiora.

Apple has five days to file an appeal. This case could end up going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Follow Dan Rascon on Twitter @DanKUTV for breaking news, updates and more.

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