Apple could face hefty fines for contesting court order to assist FBI, or Tim Cook could be jailed

Apple CEO Tim Cook looks at a new IMac after presentation at Apple headquarters in Cupertino

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, could have an interesting future to look forward to as people are already looking ahead to a visit with the Supreme Court due to Apple’s battle with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and what outcomes could arise from the company’s refusal to assist the agency in unlocking an iPhone 5c.

Independent reports at Quartz and Fast Company outlines a few of the many possibilities that Apple, and Cook, could face if it continues to defy the court that originally ordered Apple to help the FBI access information on an iPhone 5c used by one of the shooters at the San Bernardino event in 2015. One expert believes that it is possible Cook is held personally liable, and, as a result, could face jail time.

This scenario was outlined a bit in a report from Fast Company, where attorney Peter Fu says that if Apple’s case were to go all the way to the Supreme Court, and the company were to fight the Supreme Court’s decision, then Cook could indeed face jail time for that decision:

“Under these circumstances, there is a universe of possibilities where Tim Cook could actually go to jail for refusing to comply with a lawful order of the court. This is because Apple has already publicly declared that it will not comply with a court order to unlock the iPhone and as such, necessarily forces the courts to favor punishment over coercion.”

However, it’s noted in the Quartz breakdown that while that’s a possibility, it is just one of many. It is more likely, though, that Apple as a company would be held liable in a contempt charge at some point down the road:

“But Stephen Vladeck, an expert on national security law at American University, told Quartz that it’s Apple as a corporation, and not Cook himself, that is potentially liable to a contempt charge.”

There’s one consensus throughout all those heaping on their opinions of the case, though: As long as Apple is fighting the court order, as it officially announced it would earlier this month, then the company, and Tim Cook, is safe. However, if it does make it all the way to the Supreme Court, and if Apple were to lose that particular ruling, then the most likely of outcomes is that Apple would face hefty fines every day it refutes the U.S. government.

Apple’s general counsel and the Director of the FBI will testify in front of a congressional hearing on March 1, talking about encryption.

[via Fast Company; Quartz]

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