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Apple may test speech recognition of legal kind

The Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
Getty Images
The Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Apple may be set to test speech recognition of the legal kind.

The tech giant's refusal to help unlock a mass shooter's iPhone opens a can of legal worms. U.S. national security, a more than 225-year-old statute and concerns expressed by survivors of the attack may force Chief Executive Tim Cook's hand, but his privacy points are strong.

A novel free-speech argument could give the company an edge.

U.S. prosecutors escalated the battle on Friday, again demanding Apple produce software to make it easier for the FBI to hack a phone used by one of the perpetrators of a shooting that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, in December. Apple countered by publishing a new Q&A on Monday.

The feds have the cooperation of the device's owner – the shooter's employer – as well as a warrant. But they can't get all the data they want unless Apple writes what it claims is "an entirely new operating system" with drastically weakened protections against a trial-and-error approach to guessing the passcode that will unlock the phone itself.