Tech Companies Fight Strong-Arm Tactics for Your Data

In this age of digital technology, it’s rare to find someone without a Smartphone. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, it’s estimated that in four years, 70 percent of the global population will use smartphones. That means use will grow by 55 percent per year until then.iphone3

People are heavily reliant on these phones to do everything from track their work appointments to FaceTiming with a cousin overseas to checking their social media accounts and bank balances.

This information has become exceedingly valuable in court cases – both civil and criminal – where this kind of wealth of data can help to verify or disprove a given narrative. But who owns this information? Who can compel it to be brought forth and under what circumstances? How much should be divulged?

These are the kinds of questions being raised in a number of high-profile cases that have cropped up recently. But although they involve big-name technology companies such as Apple and Yahoo, don’t think they don’t involve you.

Our Miami criminal defense attorneys know the decisions made in these cases have the potential to affect the extent to which officials are allowed to access the data on your phone. If you’re like most people, you keep an incredible amount of data on those devices, which means it has the potential to make-or-break your case.

In general, it would be in the best interest of our criminal defense clients if that information was fiercely protected.

One of the cases that could impact the extent to which this kind of information could become fair game is the battle unfolding between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and technology firm Apple. For months, the two sides have been sparring over whether Apple could be compelled to “unlock” the iPhone that belonged to one of the two attackers, now deceased, who reportedly shot and killed 14 people in San Bernadino, Calif. in December.

When the two sides couldn’t reach an accord, the FBI went to a federal magistrate judge, who ordered Apple bypass the security functions of the phone and unlock it. But this touched off a heated and very public debate over the implications of such an order.

On one hand, Apple argues the FBI wants it to create a method of encryption that does not exist and that could be used to unlock other iPhones for other purposes. Once the technology is created, it’s out there, Apple argued, and this makes the data of its users more vulnerable.

FBI officials, meanwhile, argue that national security in this instance should outweigh privacy.

In another recent case that raises questions about the extent to which smartphone data should be accessible to the government, technology firm Yahoo has objected to an order in a Delaware bankruptcy court, ordering full access of an email account.

In the case of In re: Irish Bank Resolution Corp. Ltd, before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, Yahoo argues that compliance with this order would force it to violate the Stored Communications Act. The bank, which is the debtor in the case, argues this email account, maintained by an individual, contains information tending to prove that a former billionaire and his family schemed to walk away from nearly $4 billion in loans.

Yahoo argued that the circumstances of this case don’t fall within the narrow exceptions of the aforementioned federal act. The judge decided to mull the facts further before issuing an order on the matter, but did indicate that email accounts are “routinely transferred” in bankruptcy court, and the only difference here is that it would be done by judicial order.

If you are accused of a crime in Miami, there is an increasing likelihood authorities will want access to your electronic data. In order to protect your rights, you will need an experienced defense lawyer who understands the continuing evolution of this issue.

Contact the Miami criminal defense lawyers at Jacobs Keeley at (305) 358-7991 for a confidential consultation on your pending criminal matter.

Additional Resources:

Yahoo refuses to comply with bankruptcy judge’s order to turn over email account, March 8, 2016, By Brian Wheelin, JDSupra Business Advisor

Apple fights order to unlock San Bernadino Gunman’s iPhone, Feb. 17, 2016, By Eric Lichtblaue and Katie Benner, The New York Times

More Blog Entries:

Sparks and Johnson v. U.S. – Cell Phone in Child Porn Case Fair Game, 11th Circuit Rules, Dec. 1, 2016, Miami Criminal Defense Attorney Blog