Privacy concerns remain an issue

A few weeks ago, after Apple CEO Tim Cook thumbed his nose at the FBI’s request for help in recovering evidence from the government-issued iPhone of San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook, we said there was no difference in this criminal investigation than law enforcement getting a warrant and using a battering ram to bust down the door of a meth lab in a private residence. In this case, it wasn’t even a matter of trying to gather evidence against a suspect but trying to figure out how a terror network might operate. Farook was killed in a gunbattle with authorities after the slaughter in his workplace.

With Apple’s decision to fight the request, the FBI continued seeking ways into the evidentiary iPhone and received an apparently successful method from an unnamed company last week.

The FBI asked for its suit against Apple to be delayed.

The result seems to be that, without worrying about any additional warrant, by relying on the existing rules of criminal investigation, the FBI has obtained the contents of the iPhone.

And Apple now is wondering just how the FBI did it. Much like what happens in the world of criminal avoidance, from radar detectors to communications, the engineers will go back to their drawing boards and the authorities will counter the next big development.

The nation avoids, potentially, for now, having a conversation it apparently needs to have about just what “privacy” is in the connected world of smartphones, tablets and laptops under the specter of encryption.

We noted in February that it was a fantasy to think hackers weren’t working to break into iPhones anyway, and now it’s obvious that efforts were under way that weren’t just part of an FBI effort.

So, evidence is gathered and criminal investigations proceed. But the discussion of just what the nation wants to keep private still needs to occur.

We’ll reiterate: Gathering of information on every phone call, text and use of a smartphone of every citizen in the U.S. in hopes of catching the bad folks is wrong, downright un-American. But investigating suspected criminal activity with use of a criminal tool – a smartphone can be a criminal tool – should not be any different than seeking other, physical, evidence in an investigation.