Apple is refusing to comply with an order by America’s FBI to help it unlock an iPhone. The phone could contain important evidence related to a "terrorist" attack in California that killed 14 people on December 2 last year.
Apple boss Tim Cook says the government is asking his company to build a "backdoor" into an iPhone and design software that amounts to "hack[ing] our own users."
"This is the ideal case for the government to challenge industry in the encryption debate," said Michael Sussmann, a former Justice Department official. "The facts are sympathetic to the government and present the starkest example of their need to gain access to encrypted data to protect the American public."
What the government wants Apple to do is design new software to install on the phone that would block it from automatically wiping data after 10 tries at a password. That would enable the FBI to "brute force" the phone, or to try to crack the password - attempting tens of millions of combinations without risking the deletion of the data.
Privacy whisleblower Edward Snowden said "This is the most important tech case in a decade."
He quoted the New York Times as saying "China is watching the dispute closely. Analysts said that the Chinese government Does take cues from the United States when it comes to encryption regulations.
"Last year, Beijing backed off several proposals that would have mandated that foreign firms provide encryption key for devices sold in China, after heavy pressure from foreign trade groups."