Apple and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) head to court Tuesday over a judge's order that Apple hack into an iPhone linked to the San Bernardino terror attack, in what is likely to be only the first skirmish in a long legal battle.

Judge Sheri Pym ordered Apple February 16 to find a way around auto-encryption software in its iOS9 mobile operating system that has stymied FBI attempts to access data on an iPhone 5c used by Syed Rizwan Farook.

Farook and his wife killed 14 people in the December 2 shooting attack apparently inspired by the extremist group ISIS.

Apple refused the order, saying it would set a "dangerous precedent" that would undermine privacy and freedom.

Privacy advocates and other tech companies have closed ranks with Apple, arguing that providing any back door to encrypted data poses grave risks of abuse by governments and criminals alike.

At issue in Tuesday's hearing in federal court in Riverside, California, is whether federal law allows a court to force Apple to write software to bypass its own security protocols.

The government argues an 18th-century US law, the All Writs Act, gives it the authority to make Apple crack the device. Apple says the order violates its constitutional rights and other federal laws.

But the larger question being debated is much broader: when data security comes up against public safety, which should take precedence?

Law enforcement authorities say their work relies on the ability to gather evidence of crimes, such as that gleaned from legal wiretaps and searches.

In a world where people's lives and communications are increasingly stored in encrypted virtual vaults that even their inventors cannot open, those investigations stop at the door.

Authorities have long demanded tech companies provide a back door to encrypted data and devices - something tech companies say would cripple digital security around the world.

US legislators have as yet stopped short of requiring tech devices and platforms to provide government access to data.

But competing bills in California and New York would ban mobile devices with auto-encryption like that in the iPhone, and a bill addressing encryption is expected to be introduced in the US Senate in the coming weeks, according to media reports.

A separate bill banning state restrictions on encrypted devices was introduced in the US House of Representatives.

In the meantime, the battle will continue in the courts. It is expected to be a long one, with experts saying the question could end up before the Supreme Court before Apple or the FBI will stand down.

Related stories

Apple, FBI headed for showdown over San Bernardino encryption

Google, WhatsApp back Apple in encryption fight with FBI

Apple: Court must reverse "dangerous" FBI order

Apple case delayed as FBI tries its own iPhone hack

FBI opens iPhone without Apple's help

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.