San Bernardino PD: iPhone Probably Doesn't have Useful Data

The iPhone recovered from Syed Farook after he shot and killed 14 coworkers and then died in a shootout with police most likely doesn't hold any valuable information. So says San Bernardino police chief Jarrod Burguan.

Police say San Bernardino shooter's iPhone likely doesn't have useful dataPolice say San Bernardino shooter's iPhone likely doesn't hold useful data

Chief Burguan was asked about the phone during an NPR interview and he replied,

I'll be honest with you, I think that there is a reasonably good chance that there is nothing of any value on the phone. What we are hoping might be on the phone would be potential contacts that we would obviously want to talk to.

Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik shot and killed 14 of their San Bernardino County Department of Public Health coworkers in December 2015, and injured 22 more. They left the scene and were later killed in a shootout with police, after which Mr. Farook's work-issued iPhone was recovered.

The FBI enlisted Apple's help to recover data from the iPhone and were able to get data from its last backup from about two months prior to the mass shooting. FBI agents asked Apple to unlock the iPhone so they could look for more recent data, but when Apple said that wasn't possible agents turned to the courts for an order compelling the company to create a special version of the iPhone's operating system that bypasses the built-in security measures preventing brute force attacks on passcodes.

Apple chose to contest the order calling it a government overreach and a threat to privacy and security. The iPhone maker filed a motion to vacate the order yesterday that argues the government doesn't have the legal right to demand the weaker iOS version.

Apple has also argued it creates a dangerous precedent where law enforcement agencies line up with orders forcing companies to bypass security measures so they can access encrypted data. FBI director James Comey insisted that's not the case, but now has reversed course saying it "will be instructive for other courts," and that it will "guide how other courts handle similar requests."

In other words it will, in fact, set a precedent regarding how courts handle law enforcement requests for companies to create tools to bypass their own security and encryption measures. That means the real value in the court order, at least as far as law enforcement agencies are concerned, is in the precedent it could set.

Chief Burguan did his part to support that notion.

"The worst-case scenario obviously, is that maybe there was some information on there that would lead to a larger plot or to a larger network and therefore are other people out there that are still a potential danger," he said. "I think the probability is probably low, but it could be."