Apple not empowered to define privacy: San Bernardino DA

The US District Court handling the Apple-FBI encryption case today published the amicus curiae brief in full from San Bernardino County district attorney Michael Ramos, which is in support of the US government.

Ramos, an elected official in the county where the shootings took place in December, addressed several contentious points in Apple's argument. Under a section entitled, ''Apple's assertion of standing to protect privacy is illusory,'' he questioned how Apple could suggest it offered what he called ''absolute privacy.''

''While Apple can represent what it chooses, in its marketing of its devices and operating systems, Apple is neither the legislature nor judiciary empowered to define privacy as absolute,'' he wrote. ''Apple is not a public policy maker. Apple is a for-profit corporation. No one has appointed or elected Apple to be the Orwellian arbiter or definer of privacy for society or even for all of Apple's customers.'' Ramos further pointed out this ''absolute privacy'' was not supported by the Constitution.

Ramos has extended support to the US government through legal briefs along with the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, National Sheriffs' Association, the California State Sheriffs' Association, relatives of victims of the shootings, and other entities.

Ramos told a federal judge late on Thursday that Apple must cooperate with the authorities in unlocking the iPhone used by Syed Farook, one of the two San Bernardino shooters that killed 14 people in a killing rampage in December. The phone, a county work phone issued to Farook as part of his health department duties, might have been the trigger to unleash a "cyber pathogen," according to a brief by county prosecutors' filed in court.

"The iPhone is a county owned telephone that may have connected to the San Bernardino County computer network. The seized iPhone may contain evidence that can only be found on the seized phone that it was used as a weapon to introduce a lying dormant cyber pathogen that endangers San Bernardino's infrastructure," according to a court filing by Ramos.