Apple may test speech recognition of legal kind

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