Apple’s recent court victory suggests it is slowly but surely winning its battle to maintain iPhone privacy in the U.S., but it may not be so successful elsewhere. France is threatening to fine the Cupertino €1 million ($1.08 million) for every iPhone it refuses to unlock.
Yann Galut, general counsel of Cher, a French department in the region of Centre-Val de Loire, has tabled an amendment to France’s bill to strengthen the fight against organized crime and terrorism, according to a report from Le Parisien.
Galut proposes fining companies like Apple and Google €1 million if they do not respond “promptly” to unlock requests from law enforcers. France wants to be able to provide its investigators with the ability to extract data from a suspect’s smartphone in terrorism cases.
Last year, French authorities seized eight smartphones in terror investigations that they were unable to fain access to. With Apple and other companies unwilling to help, France wants to enforce new rules that can prevent this from happening later on.
“We are faced with a legal vacuum when it comes to data encryption, and it’s blocking judicial investigations,” Galut told Le Parisien. “Only money will force these extremely powerful companies like Apple and Google to comply.”
Galut notes, however, that Apple and others “cannot be forced” to unlock devices, so the fine would be “an exceptional punishment.” However, just the possibility of it will be enough to concern even the world’s richest tech companies.
As for Apple’s stance on privacy, Galut claims it’s also false. “They hide behind a supposed protection of privacy, although they are quick to make commercial use of personal data they collect,” he said (machine translated). While that may be true for Google, it’s not so with Apple.
Apple continues to battle the FBI over a court request to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters. Tim Cook has explained why the company is fighting it, and other Silicon Valley giants — including Facebook, Google, and Twitter — back that decision.
But Apple still has a long way to go to ensure it will never have to create backdoors in iOS.